Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Drivel - hitch hikers

I didn't know if I should classify this as drivel, or the hazards of farming. Regardless, every New Year around here sees an abundance of hitch hikers, a.k.a. -- vegetable ticks. Go walking in any pasture in my area and your clothes will quickly become clogged, no, overwhelmed and hidden from sight by the seeds of a pasture legume called desmodium (beggar lice, tick trefoil, tick clover). I have two varieties of desmodium in my pastures, a smooth vine and a hairy, sticky vine. Both produce abundant hitch hikers. Both produce masses of tangled vines if not grazed down. Livestock love this legume. Bees love it too, making an awesome honey. 

My shorts and socks were assaulted during a very short walk to check on a goat. I went perhaps 60 feet total and accumulated hundreds of vegetable ticks. 

In the past when I've had to walk further, my clothes had become so congested that the color barely shows through. Getting the buggahs off can be a tedious task. Running clothes through the washer doesn't remove them. Hand picking can take hours. A friend showed me a nifty trick 

Take a smooth bladed knife, preferably not too sharp, and scrape off the seeds by holding the blade at an angle. They come off quickly and cleanly. This trick works best when you're still wearing the clothes and when you can stretch the cloth tight at the loose spots, 

In about a minute I had most the hitch hikers removed. Rather than throw the seeds away, I collected them and planted them in a bare spot in the pasture. As I said, the livestock loves the stuff. My goal is to have my sheep pastures with about 20% desmodium. Even if it gets eaten down to the ground, the vine will resprout. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Donkeys Have Arrived!

The farm got a great Christmas present.......Dink and Donk have arrived. It's been in the works for weeks to bring the donkeys here, but those two critters had different ideas. Neither would get into the livestock trailer. Rather than strong-arming them, thus ruining their trailering prospects for life, their owner opted to let the donkeys work things out. So the local rancher let them borrow a small transport trailer and park it in their pasture. Over the course of several weeks, the donkeys checked out the ins and outs of the trailer. One finally climbed in, but the second took a bit longer to trust the metal monster. Once they were both loading, a few more days were spent showing them that it was ok to close the doors. 

I want to thank their owner for being so patient. When a person does something mean or scary to a donkey, they remember it for life. It can take an incredible time to win their trust again, if ever. So I'm so happy to have two smart, well behaved donkeys who are now not frightened to be trailered. Thank you! 
(Dink....very curious about the cellphone.)

Both Dink and Donk arrived calm and curious. Rather than immediately giving them access to the entire farm, I put them in our inner secure pasture. Though I doubted that they would try to break out and run off, I didn't want to chance it. I spent time with them as they checked things out. 
(Donk)

Once both were calm (they never did act nervous. I was impressed.) I let the sheep into the adjacent pasture. They came running up expecting a snack of alfalfa. Whoa! Put on da brakes! What the heck are those things! Oh, I wish I had video'd it. The sheep were in absolute awe. The ewes looked from a distance, but the ram came right up to the fence and literally eyed the donkeys up and down.
 I can't describe how funny it was, the ram swinging his head this way and that, eyes totally glued on the donkeys. Any time the donkeys moved, the ewes stamped a foot in unison. It was like some choreographed dance. Pretty funny. Eventually everybody got bored and proceeded to ignore one another. But it was grand to witness those first 10 minutes. 

 

 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Drivel - Table Leg Idea

I saw this neat trick for easily and temporarily raising the height of a folding table. Just thought I'd pass it along.

Sometimes a table just isn't high enough to do the trick. At one of the spay/neuter clinics that was the case. 

Short pieces of plastic pipe were slipped over the legs, thus creating extensions. Easy on, easy off. No screws or bolts needed. 

Lambs Are Busting Out All Over

'Tis been busy around here this month. Lambs and more lambs. Wow! 

Stacy has produced her first lamb. After the three robust jumbo lambs already this year, I was mildly disappointed to see such a small one from Stacy. But this little lamb is strong and active, so it's small size doesn't worry me. And Stacy is being an excellent mom, allowing and actually offering to nurse it frequently. So the little tyke should be fine.

Little tyke is snow white everywhere. Not a spot. That plus it's body framework tells me that Eram is the daddy. 
Thus far we have three lambs sired by Eram and one by Mystery Ram. One male and 3 females, since Stacy's is also a little girl. One more ewe might be pregnant though she hasn't shown any udder development yet. So we will have to wait and see. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another New Lamb

A few days ago the farm got another new resident, a beautiful black lamb. Judging from the markings and confirmation, Eram is the daddy of this one. 
I was delighted to discover that it's a female, so she'll be a keeper. She is healthy and frisky. 
So far this year, all the lambs have been big singles. All the ewes are first time moms. Sometimes these big singles can cause birthing problems, but the ewes didn't have any problems. Since the ewes were able to readily birth a large built lamb, then they are good candidates to stay in the flock. Next time around I'd like to see these ewes producing twins. Any ewes that do will earn a gold star, because this is the trait I want to see in my ewes. Big singles first time around....twins or big singles second time and thereafter. I'm not looking for triplets or quads. 
This little girl doesn't have lots of confidence but she is curious. Not quite sure enough to come right up to me, she likes to get close and give me a serious looking over. Boy, she's cute. 

I should have 2 more supposedly pregnant ewes in the flock. One I'm fairly certain is pregnant, the other isn't giving me a clue yet. But I jut recently was given an old Doppler machine, one that can pick up feral heart beats. I'm curious to see if it will work on sheep. I'm going to toy with it and see if I can find the feral heartbeat. It will be a nice tool if I can. 



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Drivel - Christmas Bounty, Rural Community Style

Everybody seems to be complaining about how commercial the holiday has become, but ya know, I don't see all those people shunning the stores. As with past Christmases, it's buy, buy, buy. 

Let me tell you what happened to me today. It is a different kind of Christmas. It's rural, small town community style. 

I headed down to town (today is market day) first thing today in order to buy several dozen ears of Hesker's special sweet corn. Early, because that corn often sells out fast and I had promised to bring three dozen ears with me to the Odd Ducks potluck dinner. A task that should have taken me 35 minutes from the time I left my house to the time I got back took me 3 hours, and it could have been more if I had opted to sit around to talk story. Everybody was in a talkative mood today, Christmas cheer and all that. 

Everywhere I walked I was being greeted with holiday well wishes, hugs, and alohas. But more, I had the opportunity to exchange Christmas presents with a number of people. Let me list some of the presents I received to illustrate our community. Note that none were store bought.......
.....a macnut pie
.....two bags of cookies
.....a loaf of taro bread
.....a loaf of sweet bread
.....a pan of dinner rolls
.....a jar of pesto
.....a jar of pickled mango
.....a jar of lilokoi jelly
.....a baggie of dried coconut
.....a fresh pineapple
.....a bunch of bananas
.....a bag of macnuts
.....a large pumpkin
.....a jumbo papaya
.....2 large avocados
.....a handmade bamboo wind chime
.....a ceramic wall ornament
.....a potholder
.....a hot plate, the type to set a hot dish on
.....a cutting board
.....a baggie of sandlewood sawdust
.....6 purple lilokoi
.....4 white pipinola
.....a hand decorated tea towel
.....a bouquet of proteas (flowers)
Everything was either homemade, handmade, or grown at the home. 

Really neat! Cool! They are great gifts from the heart. Far more precious and meaningful than something bought at a store or ordered on the internet. This is the kind of gift giving that really has meaning to me. Yeah, my Eastcoast friends might say it's hokey, but it's the best as far as I'm concerned. 

When I got home there were more items sitting by my gate. I figured out where some had come from, but others are yet a mystery. 
.....a box of lilokoi
.....a plate of fudge
.....a milk jug loaded with worms in dirt
.....two feed bags of assorted wood chunks
.....a bag full of bromeliad keikis
.....a bowl made from coconut fronds
.....a home cut CD of the giver's music

I'm so fortunate to be part of a rural community. It's taken time to develop this network. It didn't happen overnight. But I'm happy that it happened. 


Drivel -Christmas in Hawaii

My mainland friends have often asked me what Christmas is like in Hawaii? I suspect they think I live in some wild foreign country, or perhaps Mars. I mean, come on guys, this is still the USA. Stores. Malls, albeit not too many. Christmas house lights and yard displays. Candy canes. Christmas trees. Wrapping paper. Churches galore with their Christmas services and nativity scenes. Walk into Home Depot, Sears, Macy's, Target, Pier One, Walmart, K-Mart, Ross ---yup, we got them here--- and youll know that  it's the holidays. 

Ok, we don't have snow, ice, freezing weather unless we drive to the tops of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. But there are plenty of places on the mainland that don't get that cold too. So what if we go snorkeling on Christmas morning, have lunch on the beach, and Christmas dinner luau? (I just had to get that dig in.)

Santa Claus is often depicted here wearing red shorts and an aloha shirt, arriving on a surf board. Ok, that's different. Christmas dinner is often pig cooked in the ground. But there are plenty of hams and turkeys being served up too. 

People greet one another with plentiful Merry Christmases, but there are those among us who will give a hearty Mele Kalikimaka, often with an uncontrolled hiccup or an added syllable, though many times we manage to pull it off correctly. 

As with everywhere, friends get together. 

Christmas is what you make it. Each Christmas I make a wish. While its never come true, I still make the same wish every year from the depth of my heart......

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All


Monday, December 22, 2014

Livestock - The Ugly Side

I've had people tell me how delightful it would be to raise animals....the fun of seeing babies play and grow, to watch the mother-baby love affair, to watch something grow from baby to adult. They say they'd just love to have such & such, be it a sheep, rabbits, goats, etc. Everyone talks about the good aspects, but if I'm going to get involved with raising livestock, I believe that I had better make sure that my eyes are completely open to the whole shebang. Everything about having livestock isn't just  fun and games. Sadly I'm discovering that many people getting into keeping animals don't know that in advance. 

Keeping livestock is work. Feeding. Watering. Tending. Veterinary care. Maintaining housing and fencing. Learning the husbandry for each type of livestock. The danger involved with handling livestock.  The problems with predators. The worries and what-ifs......what if they get sick, what if the get loose, what if they hurt somebody else, what if they get out and get hit by a car. Then there's the weather problem. They still need tending during rain storms, hurricanes, blizzards, sweltering heat waves, frigid winters......mud, snow, ice, dust. Not always so much fun, eh? 

One big bummer about having livestock is that each one that gets born also has the potential to die. While most homesteads intend that some of the livestock intentionally die in order to become food, there are times when they die when we don't intend it. Things happen. Illness, injuries, accidents, fights, poisonings, predators, killings. Yes, I've heard tales of intentional killings such as a despicable hunter, a feuding neighbor, a malicious person. 

To date the only livestock deaths on my homestead have occurred fro one of four causes: intentional slaughter for food, illness that failed to respond adequately to veterinary treatment, old age, and predation. 

Predators are the one reason that really gets me riled. Around here, dogs are the number one predator. Almost always they are or have been somebody's pet. 
Above, a neighbor's dog. Normally a nice animal. Actually lives with two adolescent ewes. But dogs are dogs, and under the right circumstances they follow their instincts rather than training. Last Saturday I walked out to the back pasture to handout alfalfa treats and to check on the lambs only to discover this dog in the process of destroying a ewe who had given birth 24 hours earlier. The dog was probably drawn to the smell of the blood  or the sound of the lamb, thus it dug under the fence. I don't know how long the attack went on, but the poor ewe was badly mauled and beyond saving. 
Yes, this is the ugly part!!!!

But if people are going to get into raising livestock, I feel that they had better be able to handle the ugly part or at least have a game plan on how to get someone else to handle it for them. 

Ugly parts I've had to deal with .....
....predation injuries. I've lost a number of ewes and chickens to various predators. 
....birthing complications. I've had one special ewe that didn't make it while trying to deliver quads. Broke my heart. 
....birth defects and abnormalities. What would you do with a chick with a severely deformed beak or leg? Or a lamb born with a major defect? They need to be dealt with. I've had to dispatch deformed lambs and chicks.
....sick or abandoned newborns. Not all moms turn out to be good or willing moms. And if the farmer doesn't want to bottle feed the newborn, then some other solution has to be decided & acted upon. Most farmers don't bother bottle feeding an orphans lamb, but I do. It's my own decision on how to handle the problem. 
....over population. During drought I've run out of pasture. Decisions have to be made. Either reduce the number of animals or commit to spending big bucks to buy feed. My decision has been to sell or butcher the excess and buy feed for my keepers. 
....flystrike. Until I learned to effectively combat flies and how to aggressively treat flystrike, I lost some sheep. It's a tough way for a dumb human to learn and the sheep are the losers. 
....lost sheep. It's a nightmare. Yes, the sheep are gone but what's worse is the worry of where they are. Will they eat some neighbor's garden, causing major resentment? Worse yet, will they cause a car accident? 

I've talked with plenty of people who got out of keeping livestock because of the ugly parts. They hadn't learned what to expect until they were up to their ears in trouble or grief. So I'm just giving a bit of a heads up to anyone thinking about getting into keeping livestock. Yup, it's not all fun and games. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Unexpected Goats Join the Homestead

Well, I've been considering adding a goat or two to the homestead, but I had a Nigerian milking doe in mind. Something that would give us some nice milk for our coffee, some creamed gravies and soups, and goat milk for a little cheese. Also a small breed that wouldn't be as apt to jump our fence. I wasn't ready yet to make the move, but figured that I'd look over this coming spring's kids and see if my heart got hooked on one, possibly two. 

Ha, dump those plans! Out the door! Kaput! We just now opened our farm to three goats in need. They are Hawaiian feral goats, caught over a year ago and tamed down quite a bit since then. They're Spanish type. Being feral one never knows if there are any domestic breeds mixed in, but the billy looks real Spanish. I can't even try fooling my mind that they are even the slightest bit Nigerian. Egads, look what I've done. 
But hey, the billy is pretty cool looking. Uuuhhh, ignore the smell...... Take a gander at those horns. Neat, right? Reminds me of motorcycle handles. Appropriately his name is Harley. 
Then there's the skinny little brown doe. A homely sack of bones, but at least she doesn't have lice. She's named Nani, which is Hawaiian for beautiful. 
And finally the black, one eared doe. The guy we got them from called her Honami. Well I think that's what he said. Supposedly that was his ex-girlfriend's name. I wonder if she had only one ear too? 

The two does are pregnant and Honami looks like she'll be the first to kid. She's bagging up, so I'm guessing it will be sooner than later. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Lamb

Introducing our new lamb. 


She's a big one. Strong and active. The sire of this one is the mystery ram that just showed up here one day. Being that it's a female, she's a keeper. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Drivel - Farm Name and Motto?

"Goatfish" asked me in an email what was my farm's motto and name. Well I never really thought much about the farm having a motto. And my farm's name? Hummm.

While living in England I discovered that most traditional homes have names. It's actually delightful. I can't recall too many of the actual names now, but the last placed we lived in was King's Barn. Homes often had country names like Foxglove, Primose Cottage, Badger Corner, Cartway, Pheasant Hide. I loved the idea of a property having a name, but it's not an American thing. Although hubby and I named our places in the US, the names never took on a life of their own. They just never stuck. And when we moved to this place in Hawaii, hubby jokingly named it Hale Oop. This too has never blossomed to life. We never refer to the place as Hale Oop. 

As for a farm name, I've never really christened this homestead. Perhaps I should. Should I use a Hawaiian name? 

As for a motto........
I find it interesting that lots of people have a favorite saying or motto for going through life. In fact, most people I've talked with about this idea have at least two, sometimes even several favorite sayings. Some folks use them to keep their lives focused. Others say they help to keep them from being too serious or too critical. Here are some of the ones I liked--

Falling on one's face is still moving forward. 

Simplify, simplify, simplify. 

Live life every day. 

If its worth doing, it's worth doing wrong. (That happens around here a lot as I'm learning the how-to's!)

Failing is simply a learning experience. 

Facts seldom get in the way of someone else's beliefs. 

Don't believe everything you read or hear. 

It's better to be prepared and not need it than to need it and not be prepared. 

When someone tries to hand you their anger, frustration, and sadness you don't have to accept it and make it your own. 

When life gets too stressful to be enjoyable, it's time to lower one's expectations. 

It's hard to get bent out of shape if you're flexible. 

The best way to win a battle is by not even going there. 

Give back more than you take.

Do no harm. 

No regrets. 

Zero waste. 

Leave only footprints. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Good Soil Takes Time

I've received emails from beginning gardeners and homesteaders who have been having trouble with their new garden sites. Their first crops have been failures or very disappointing. I've discovered in my own gardens that the first year is often pathetic because the soil is lacking somewhere along the line. The soil on my homestead is naturally somewhat acidic, low in nitrogen, extremely low in phosphorous, and low in potassium. That's the N-P-K that's listed on fertilizer bags. But my soil also seriously lacks magnesium, manganese, calcium, and boron. All these deficiencies show in the plants the first year. Here is an example. 
Although its difficult to see in the above photo, the bean plants in the foreground are "bleached" looking, not robust, and a good 6"-8" shorter than the bean plants in the rear. Here's a closer look at the foreground plants.........
They have numerous leaves that are pale, their green leaves are not a deep or bright green, and the plants look stunted. They are small. Why? They are growing in soil where I haven't grown vegetables before. I had removed the weeds, flipped in some ash, coral sand, crushed bone, rabbit and horse manure, and good quality compost. Even though I added soil amendments, the nutrients simply aren't available to the plants that quickly. Time is needed to build a population of soil microbes that will "feed" on the amendments, thus eventually after a complex cycle, end up with nutrients that the plants can utilize. 

To avoid the first year blues, I could have resorted to commercial fertilizer. A hydroponic fertilizer would have given immediate results, but even something like Miracle Gro or Peters, or just about any lawn fertilizer without a herbicide, would have been better than nothing. But going with the more natural cycle like I did takes a number of months for soil improvement. Thus first time crops using don't perform well.

But here's what the plants in the rear of the row look like close up. Green. Bushy. Growing real well. Pushing blooms. The difference is that this is the second crop at this site. The first time around was pathetic, but this second planting is doing far better. The soil has had the time needed to process the initial amendments. Thus the plants are using the nutrients. 

The third crop on this site will even do noticeably better. I'm finding that it takes three crop cycles for my soil to really get good enough for vegetables. But that means that between each crop I'm testing the soil pH, then adding ash if needed, coral sand, bone, lava sand, inoculated biochar if the soil tends to get too dry, volcanic cinder if the soil stays too wet, manures, and plenty of compost. Plus I till in the old mulch too.

I've started out with reasonable, though deficient, soil. My results would have been different if the soil was pure sand, pure clay, muck, gravel. Each person's soil requires a different approach to make it productive. But regardless of soil type, the first crops planted won't be wildly successful until the soil deficiencies are addressed.




Firewood Storage

Now that the house is approaching it's finale, I'm trying to get better organized. I'm building some shelving, creating some storage spots both inside and out. I realize that I need a proper place to store firewood up by the house. Up until now it's been stashed out on the lanais. But they are disappearing one after the other as they are being enclosed and becoming part of our living space. So I took a look around for a convenient spot to make a simple shelter. Ah, behind the catchment tanks. Out of sight but close by, and easy to get to. That space isn't being used for anything but weeds, and most likely never will be used for anything. 

Next step, what to build? Just how elaborate, permanent, and expensive do I want it? Answer: simple, temporary, dirt cheap. Since we're still in flux about exactly where things should be, a temporary structure is fine for now. 

Before heading out to the hardware store, I took a deep breath, relaxed, and repeated my mantra....Self Reliancy. Low Input. Ok. I told myself-- no 2x4's and plywood for this project. Let me think on this one......

Ok, what I came up with will work. Since the structure will be out of sight from everyone, it doesn't have to be lovely, cute, and painted pretty colors. It just has to be functional. So it could be a pallet shelter with a tarp roof. If I had salvaged metal roofing available, I'd use that. Perhaps in the future I'll be able to scrounge up more of that. The tarp will do for now. 

First off, I pulled the tallest weeds out, adding them to the compost boxes. Then I brought over several sturdy pallets that were in good condition. 
I had previously leveled this area with my surplus small rocks a few years back, so I didn't have to do anything more to prepare the ground. I had two perfect sized logs that had been cut previously while clearing trees. So they got drug over using just muscle power. The final piece - the roof ridge. The 2x6 that had been salvaged when we revamped the catchment tank set up now had a use. Perfect. 

Digging holes for the logs, they slipped right into place. The little rocks were wedged back into place and the front upright log was braced until the rain settles things again. In fact, I think I'll go pound that with a sledgehammer to stabilize that log better and quicker. 
Next, the pallets were nailed to one another. The end pallets on either side were too wobbly and needed support, so I cut two other pallets into half. I then nailed the halves to each end pallet on either side. This shored them up well. 



Since the tarp will be nailed or otherwise fastened to the pallets, I didn't want a fierce wind to lift everything up. Not that we have fierce winds on a regular basis. The last time was 1991 I think. But one never knows. So I hammered a "U' shaped piece of rebar in at each pallet and wired the pallet to it. I think that will be just enough to encourage things to stay put since the tarp is rather sheltered from wind anyway. 

Finally the tarp. It rests over the ridge pole and is nailed onto the side pallets. Simple to put on. Simple to replace when needed. 

To keep the wood up off the damp earth, I laid down a couple of pallets. As I fill the little shelter up, I can add more pallets,

This simple structure took only an afternoon to complete from start to finish. It cost me only the nails, about 15' of wire, and a tarp. Everything else was either salvaged, free or obtained right on the farm. It should work just fine to store my firewood, keeping it handy and dry. 

If hubby doesn't like the color as the pallets weather, then I'll spray paint them some woodsy color to have it blend in better. But one cannot see this from the house, nor can the neighbors. Thus I don't think it makes much difference. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Drivel - I've Been Occupied

The blog has been quiet the past few days because I've been occupied. This week sees me volunteering a not one, but two canine neuter clinics. Crazy, no? But the group I volunteer with is very close to neutering 1000 dogs this year, so they're doing a some extra work to reach that goal. 
Today seemed to be predominately puppies. Several pups ranging from 6 1/2 weeks to about 5 months of age. Being neutered today, these little fellas will be put up for adoption this weekend at the local Petco. With Christmas on its way, I'm sure they will get homed. 
A volunteer, above, poses some of the pups for a photo. Their picture will get posted on Facebook. And any not spoken for by Saturday will attended adoption day in Kona. 
Friday will be the final neuter clinic of the year. That plus a couple of neutered already scheduled for next week should bring the year total to 1000. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Feeding Goats

Leigh just posted some excellent post about feeding goats. 

This link is for her blog. The goat article is December 15, 2014

http://www.5acresandadream.com/


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Homemade Spray for Powdery Mildew

In my experience, nothing homemade works really great for mildew. But I'm adverse to buying chemicals for anything other than the gourd crop. Mildew is really difficult to deal with, but I am doing better with it now than I did 10 years ago. 

First, I try to grow varieties that have some mildew resistance. I'll buy seed that lists resistance. And when I save my own seed, I remove those plants that get mildew the worse, thus ending up with seed from the most resistant plants. 

Next, I try to catch mildew when it first starts. Sometimes the plants start showing off colored spots or splotches on their leaves before they turn whitish. If I can start spraying at this early point, I can battle the mildew better. On some plants, like the squash/gourd/pumpkin family and the tomatoes, I'll also remove infected leaves, then fertilize the plants. The plants then produce news ones. 

Most likely because of my location and climate, I haven't found that spacing the plants further apart or doing something else to open the plants up to more air and sunshine to help with the mildew. I've tried, but haven't seen any difference. 

I've tried milk sprays but the jury is still out. I haven't yet done any controlled trials, so possibly milk spray might help some if the mildew is caught in the early stages. I've tried IMO foliar sprays. Just as with the milk sprays, the jury is still out. But I get the feeling that it works better than milk. 

I have been using baking soda spray. So far it seems to help the most, but it's not the perfect answer either. The spray I'm currently using is--

1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 squirt (about a teaspoon) of liquid soap
1 gallon water

Mix together the oil and soap, then add that to the gallon of water. Shake. Add the baking soda and shake well before using. Spray the entire plant, top & bottom of the leaves. Because this pray contains oil, do not spray in bright sunlight. I spray it in the evening just before dark or very first thing in the morning right at dawn. I'll use it once a week, but if it rains, then after each rain. 

Mildew has to be treated as soon as it starts showing up. Once a plant gets whitish all over, it's too late. 

I plan to try experimenting more with mildew control. Mouthwash, vinegar, and sulfur have been suggested. I haven't tried any of these yet. I'm going to combine foliar feeding along with various spray combinations. And I plan to try sour milk mixed with compost tea. who knows if any of this stuff will make any difference. This year I'll try to keep some better records. 

Some of the records I have actually kept was trying to figure out if powdery mildew occurred during a certain time of the year. If it did, then I'd be able to take preventative action. But alas, that's not the case. I suppose an outbreak is more dependent upon weather conditions rather than the date. So I need to do a lot more close observation to figure this thing out. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Homemade Insect Spray

Jill sent me her recipe for an insecticidal spray. She says it's good for soft bodied insects like aphids, mealy bugs, whitefly, scale. She got the recipe from another gardener here in Hawaii. I've tried it and it works. But as with any spray containing oil, use it on the early morning or late afternoon when the strong sun isn't on the leaves, otherwise it will burn the leaves some. I take care to spray both top and bottoms of the leaves. Using it once, possibly twice, a week seems to do a good job during a bug outbreak. 

So here it goes.....

1 tablespoon liquid dish soap, like Dawn
1 cup cooking oil, like peanut, corn, soybean, etc

Mix the soap and oil in a glass jar. Shake. Now you can store this. Shake it well before measuring it out to use when making the spray. When you want to make a spray, mix 1-2 teaspoons of the soap/oil and mix with one cup of water. Or if you are making a gallon of spray, then mix 1/2 to 2/3 cup of soap/oil with 1 gallon of water. Stir it well before spraying. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Localvore Revisted One Year Later

Ever really try to eat just local foods? Wanna be a localvore? There for a while last year the term localvore was being thrown around quite a bit. It was even in the local newspapers, and I believe there was some sort of a localvore festival up north. But the excitement has simmered down. I suppose people discovered that being a localvore was difficult, expensive, and awfully boring at times. Luckily one doesn't have to give up coffee or tea around here when practicing localvore habits! Thank heaven they both grow on this island. 

Being a localvore sounded so "green" last year. But as I said, reality must have dulled the sparkle. Being a real localvore there would suddenly be no grapes, cherries, apples, peaches, cantaloupes, pears, or cranberries on the table. No asparagus, garlic, rutabagas, turnips, or celery. Not that these don't grow around here, but they don't show up anywhere for sale. No bread of any sort, no pizza, no rice, no noodles. Oh no....no sandwiches! What am I gonna do for lunch? Oooo, no mayo? No mustard?  

It wasn't long before all talk of localvore stuff quieted down. I don't hear it mentioned on the local chatter. 

But for anyone still interested in the idea, there are other considerations. One certainly needs to be adaptable and flexible. Many foods are only available when in season. Others are only available hit and miss. Some are never available. No imported foods! It makes for a challenging dinner menu. 

I give credit to those people who are still dedicated to the idea of a localvore lifestyle. The rationale is good, but the implementation difficult. Once upon a time everybody ate a localvore diet (except for salt and spices), but not anymore. I don't think the kids of today could conceive of what it was like back then "in the dark ages". 

Ok, I can see the emails now. Freeze foods. Can the foods. Dehydrate stuff. Yes, yes, yes. I fully agree with you. BUT.....the people that I know who had gotten into being localvores were not the farm wife types. They worked 8 to 5 jobs out of town and were very into self image and fashion. Not the type to slave over a canner, though they might agree to pop a plastic bag of broccoli into the freezer. 

I myself really like the idea of eating localvore style. I'm not a true localvore myself because I do eat 2-3 restaurant meals a week, will trade for certain out-of-area foods, and buy certain things like grapes, apples, melon, vinegar, spices, oils, olives, herbs. But the basic concept makes sense. Well to me it does. Psst, don't ask hubby. He's very pro buying food from the stores. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Drivel - Kittens Get Neutered

Photo --- Toi sleeping with her head draped over Molly's neck. The white spot on Toi's forehead is her clinic ID number. I just forgot to take it off when we got home. But they were resting so comfortably that I didn't want to disturb them just yet. 


Today our two new kittens were spayed. Both have gained enough weight and appear healthy. So off they went with me to the clinic. They joined 143 other cats. 

Working these clinics makes for a long day, but one that I find rewarding. Getting these cats neutered prevents hundreds of unwanted kittens who would suffer a worse fate than Toi and Molly went through. Toi and Molly survived their ordeal and ended up in a home, but hundreds and hundreds of unwanted kittens die horrible agonizing deaths. Neutering the prospective parents can prevent that cruelty. 

Every clinic sees 100-200 cats. And there's yet more out there that need neutering. Why? Foremost is the unthinking, uncaring, or callous owners who don't neuter their cats and ditch the kittens someplace. Their unfeeling behavior results in a never ending flood of misery. It totally boggles me that people refuse to neuter their cat. You say because it's expensive? Poppycock! Advocats will neuter for free. You say because the owner can't transport the cat? Bull! Someone will come get it for them. You say it's because they don't have a carrier, or can't catch the cat? Gosh dang it! Traps are available to borrow for free. In fact, I personally set out the traps, transport the cats. Sorry....no excuses. It just comes down to some warped sense of living their sex life through their pets....or some outmoded cultural sense of animal wholeness that doesn't take into consideration animal suffering. Geez Loiuse, cut me a break! Ok, ok, I'll stop preaching to the choir. But I'm still pissed off that I drove all the way into town this morning to pick up several cats only to find a husband refusing the let the cats get neutered. Heaven forbid we neuter his precious tomcat or the numerous "girlfriends". All I could keep thinking in my head was...you poor little example of a man, getting off watching your cat mating with another cat. By some mystery all the little kittens that get born disappear. If I catch him killing or ditching those kittens, we are going to need to call the police. It's gonna be a scene. 

Yes, I get hot about men who won't neuter their pets. Women are far more realistic about this. Why are you guys so resistant? It's not like I'm trying to get you neutered yourself, though heaven knows it would be a very good idea in some cases. 

Ok, that's enough. I'll stop for now.....until the next clinic rolls around. Oh did I tell you that the next dog clinic is in one week? Give me 2-3 days and I'll get all ramped up about that one, too. So if your dog isn't neutered yet and you don't have an ironclad excuse, you had better hope you don't see me coming your way. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sustainable Eating -Milk, Eggs, and Cheese

Eggs --- Living on a working homestead, I find it's easy for me to be self sufficient and sustainable in this department. Eggs are a cinch -- easy to be so smug and say that now. It wasn't so easy 8 years ago! Chickens can forage for a good portion of their diet, and homegrown & foraged foodstuffs top off their plate. I'm still in the process of growing more grains for them so that I can complete the break from commercial feed. Right now I still use a few handfuls of cob (corn, oats, barley) as a conditioning reward for returning to their pen each evening to roost. 

I said, "...I find it's easy..." It wasn't easy when I started this project, but I've developed habits to the point that it's standard routine. In the beginning the hens were fed all commercial chicken feed. My attempts to use chicken tractors or standard chicken pens were a lethal failure. But I've progressed to the point that I'm nearly 100% self sufficient as far as the chickens go. It's taken time to set up their food system, but as I said, it's now routine. I know which trees in the area produce a surplus of fruits or nuts which I can gather, and what times of the year they produce. I've established relationships with some local businesses and groups for their waste foods. I have many people who bring me their food waste to trade for fresh veggies or eggs. I cut a couple mower bags of fresh grass clippings daily for their pen, a goodly portion of which they consume. I specifically grow certain items just to feed to the chickens. And I set up an outdoor cooking area for processing roadkill and slaughter waste for them. 

Even though producing eggs via my methods translate into labor and time, I feel that they are worth it. And as a perk, they are a hot commodity to sell or trade. And I haven't purchased store bought eggs in years...........except for my mother who doesn't think green or brown shelled eggs are very appealing. She's eaten white eggs all her life and at 92 she's not interested in changing. 

Ok, so I've got the egg things down pat. But what about milk and cheese? I'm only partially there in this department, but I see how it could be done. Currently I buy some locally produced raw milk from people who have either goats or a cow. But I don't have a steady supply. It's feast or famine. So I buy milk from the store too. I can see how I could be self reliant when it comes to milk and cheese, but frankly, I don't want to make that move at this time. Let me explain......

Since hubby and I use over a gallon of milk a week plus enjoy cheese and yogurt, you'd think that a dairy cow would be the next addition to the homestead. Or at least a goat, since goat milk is good too. But a dairy animal ties one to the farm worse than any other type of livestock. Milking must be done on schedule if you expect to keep milk production going. No missing. No coming home late at night. No going away for the day fishing, swimming, hiking, or simply holo holo. Frankly, I'm not interested in being tied to a dairy animal. Yes, there is a way to milk the animal once a day. Yes, keeping a calf or kid at her side helps ease the time schedule. But keeping a dairy animal in good milk requires more grain than I currently produce, requires equipment for milking, requires close to daily reinforcement of training to keep the milking procedure safe .... yes, these animals can hurt me bigtime if they object to being milked.

If we were using a lot of milk or were able to sell or trade excess milk without fear, then I'd consider the keeping of a dairy cow to be a more reasonable option. But we spend only about $500 a year on dairy from the stores, which is nothing compared to the cost of added secure fencing, milking equipment, veterinary care, and feed needed in order to keep a milker on the farm. And that's not even addressing the risk of me getting hurt. 

Selling or trading raw milk has major hassles attached to it. Raw milk is one farm product that officials are actively looking for. Any advertising is a giant red flag. Big Brother will come uninvited to your farm, demand entry under threat of impounding your property or arresting you, confiscate your record system including your computers (whether you maintain your records in them or not.) Their goal is to shut you down and collect their monetary reward in the form of huge fines. For real. It happens. Thus raw milk is a black market product that is deep underground. Some states allow limited raw milk sales from the farm. Hawaii isn't one of them that I am aware of. Sellers of raw milk around here do it very quietly. 

Without an outlet for selling raw milk, the idea of keeping a dairy cow on my homestead doesn't make fiscal sense. If cow milk was suddenly unavailable via the stores, I'd simply give up using it. But keeping a small dairy goat might be a viable alternative. I'm not ready to do that anytime soon, but it's worth thinking about it. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sustainable Eating -Meat

On a small homestead farm, I'm finding that producing one's own meat is quite do-able. Or growing produce to use for trade to get local meat also works. The main hurdle I see on raising your own on a farm is getting past the slaughter aspect. But then, there's always the local slaughterhouse to resort to for those who haven't gotten to the point of doing it themselves. 

In my own endeavors to become self reliant, I've gradually added various livestock to see if they would fit into my farm. 

Chickens : 
I started out with chickens. First of all, I like to eat chicken and eggs. That was the first plus of starting with chickens. Next, they are small in size. They can't damage me very badly. They don't require a big investment. You can start out with just one until you learn about them. They produce eggs without having to kill them. Slaughter and butchering is not complicated. Just about any small farm could raise a few birds. 

Rabbits:
I got into rabbits only this past year. Looking back, it would have worked out just fine if I had added a couple rabbits in the very beginning. A small farm can easily support a breeding pair. The initial investment is low and the return is quick in the form of meat for the dinner plate. Home slaughter is uncomplicated. They are not difficult to raise nor dangerous to keep. 

Sheep:
I find sheep to be a good homestead animal, especially for me. They are easier to confine than goats, do a good job at eating grasses, and aren't exceptionally dangerous. Well, I'll modify that statement....ewes aren't very dangerous. Rams are a different story. But in general, they aren't a difficult animal for me to keep. Since I changed to having only bottle fed sheep, I'm finding it far easier to deal with them. My farm can easily support a small flock. I currently have 11 and am aiming for a flock size of 15 ewes, 1 to 2 rams. While sheep could be milked, I'm not ready to try training a ewe yet. So I keep them for meat and sellable lambs. Sheep are easy to home slaughter and not too big. One will fit into the freezer with no problem. 


Goats:
Like sheep, I find goats to be a good homestead animal. But they are different from sheep. They are escape artists, so they need more secure fencing. And they tend to be browsers rather than grazers, though they will indeed eat grasses. Personalitywise, sheep and goats are different. I like both. Goats are often the choice for homestead milk, but they are also good meat animals. As with sheep, I find them easy for home slaughter and butchering. 

Pigs:
In my opinion, a pig is another good homestead animal. They are reasonably easy to confine and feed. They produce a lot of meat. Home slaughter is more involved than the other animals I've mentioned so far, but it's not beyond the scope of a homesteader. This past year I finally added a couple pigs to the farm. 

Cows:
In the past I've had enough firsthand experience with cows to know that I don't wish to deal with them myself. They are big, strong, opinionated, don't necessarily respect fencing, and could hurt me in a big way. To keep a cow safe to work around, one needs to work with them at least a little almost every day. Oxen drivers and 4-H'ers work closely with their cattle, making the animals rather safe. But most small farmers don't have the time to do that. I know that I surely don't. Although a cow would not be a good option for me, I'm certain that other homesteaders would find a cow to be just fine. I have seen some other small farms around here with a dairy cow or two where it works well for them. Of course a big animal like a cow requires a lot of feed. A very small homestead most likely could not support a cow. My size farm could support a cow if there wasn't already have competition from a lot of ither livestock. but right now I'd need to create more pasture if a cow was to be added. As for meat, a cow could fill the freezer. Plus home slaughter and butchering is a big task. And beef does best if hung for several days, a situation most homesteaders can't do themselves. The bottom line, in my opinion raising a beefer isn't a good sustainable meat option for my farm. I'll just trade my excess eggs, lamb, or rabbit for beef. 

Fish: 
I haven't yet expanded into producing my own fish. First if all, hubby isn't a fish eater. So there's no pressure to get into fish raising. But I enjoy fish now and again, so I've thought about raising tilapia. From what I've read, raising tilapia or catfish is do-able for a small farm. Each do well in a simple pond. Feeding them is not complicated. Currently I have 3 tilapia in my ag catchment tank. Well lets say that I put three into the tank and to date none have floated on the surface. The tank acts like a pond, growing edible greenery. Mosquito fish also live in the tank, so their fry would be a food source for the tilapia, too. It looks like keeping fish on a small homestead would work, especially species that are not fussy. A small farm could easy support them. 

There are plenty of other meat sources that could be kept in a sustainable fashion on a small homestead, but at this point I'm not interested in them for meat. Perhaps some day in the future I'll give others a try. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

2015 Goals

I've long since stopped making New Years resolutions because they never stick. They're always some wild lofty pie-in-the-sky goal that are bound for failure. But I do make a list of short term goals or projects that can be accomplished within a year. Nothing life changing, because those goals often don't work, causing me to spiral down into depression. Failing has a nasty tendency to do that to a person, especially me. So I'm sitting down and giving some focus to 2015.  

First, how did 2014 turn out? My five goals :
... Finish the kitchen --- check
... Finish the livingroom --- check. Plus the hallway is completed too. Ta-da! 
... Establish sustainable meat source --- check. I've incorporated rabbits and pigs into the homestead scheme and expanded the sheep flock. And of course, the farm already had chickens. No, I don't eat roadkill. 
... Expand vegetable & fruit gardens --- check. 
... Add bees to the homestead --- check. 

There were a lot more projects/goals on my list, some of which were achieved, some in progress, so not yet started. But these were my top five. I get carried away when I make job lists, so I've found that if I list just my top five and focus on those, I'm more likely to have success and thus feel happy and satisfied. 

Now for 2015. These keep creeping to the top of the list......
... Finish the bedroom and storage/walk in closet. The bedroom itself won't be a big deal. I could finish it by myself without David's help, but I don't intend to exclude him. I'll do the grunt/assistant labor and let him do the more skilled tasks. The closet will be more of a job because what the project really consists of is enclosing the wraparound lanai and making it into a giant storage room off the bedroom. It has to be framed in, enclosed, and completely finished off inside and out. 
... Finish the bathroom. It's going to be a big task with some big hurdles. The current bathroom will completely go. The area will be re-organized and expanded, meaning a big change in the roof. Plumbing and wiring to be redone. New expanded foundation and floor. Added door. New window. The "works". I really hope that it gets finished in 2015, but I won't be disappointed if the job extends a bit into the next year. The bathroom will be our most complicated house building project to date. And it is the final phase of the house. What will we do with ourselves once the house is officially finished? Will it feel strange no longer working on building the house? We'll see. 
... Incorporate grain production on the farm. I've dabbled a little bit into growing some. Now I'd like to get serious about it. I'd like to be able to stop buying feed for the livestock on a regular basis. 
... Get the seed farm into better production. This past year it's been hit and miss. And with all the rain, the grass got out of hand. So I'd like to develop a workable schedule that will keep the seed farm producing all the bean and pea seed this upcoming year. 
... Re-organize the barn. Create a better storage system. Install a solar electric system. Install plumbing. Install a small work kitchen. 

Oh, there must be a hundred tasks on my list for 2015, but I plan to put most of my effort into these five. Getting these five accomplished would make 2015 a very successful year. 

Sustainable Eating -Fruits

Living in Hawaii gives me the opportunity to produce or trade or fresh fruit year around. Not all fruits produce throughout the year, but there is always something ready for eating. The main problem that I see it that I have to get use to new types of fruits, ones that not only haven't I eaten before but that I never even heard of before. What I see growing here is not like what I saw back on the Eastcoast. Yup Su, you're not in Kansas anymore! 

Being rather adaptable and willing to try new stuff, I've come to like most of the tropical fruits. Plus I've really become spoiled, wanting them fresh off the trees, like oranges, limes, lemons, pineapples, bananas, avocados. Fresh picked and plant ripened, they are superior compared to anything in the stores. 

In my attempt to develop self reliant habits, I tend to eat very little fruits that are imported. Alas, I'm still a sucker for grapes. But I'm more than willing to chow down mangos (yum, my favorite), lilokoi, papayas, sweet guavas, jaboticaba, sweetsop, cherimoya, dragon fruit, loquat, longon, rambutan, lychee, and mountain apples. And my own home grown bananas and pineapples are super. Although star fruit and thimbleberry have very little taste, they are very pretty in salad. 

Now hubby is a different story. Yes, he likes the bananas and pineapple here, but that's about as far as he goes. He's an apple sort of guy. While apples do grow here, notably the Anna variety, he's rather narrow in his preferences. And Anna doesn't fit the bill. Plus just about every other tropical fruit he's not keen on. Limes occasionally made into popsicles, but that's about it. Needless to say, hubby isn't into this self reliant scheme. 

Preserving fruits would be another way of having seasonal fruits other times of the year. I do indeed do some preserving --- dried fruits, jams, syrups, frozen juice fruits. By avoiding store bought fruits plus not doing a lot of preserving, I'm gradually returning to the idea of seasonal fruits. And guess what, I'm reliving the joy of seasonal fruit. Sounds odd, doesn't it? 

As a kid, fruit was seasonal unless it a fruit that stored well, like apples. But international trade ended that. By cutting my ties to store bought, I'm rediscovering the joy of fruits in season. I'll go months without mangos, so it's intense pleasure to feast on juicy mangos when they come back. Same for rambutans, lychee, citrus, etc. I'll have no oranges for months, then I'll savor fresh oranges again, enjoying their intense sweetness and flavor. With seasonal fruits being just that, seasonal, I find that I savor them more, enjoy them more, really get into their flavor. 

As a by-product of self reliancy and thus the move back in time to the concept of fruits in season, a tiny spark of joy has returned to my life. The anticipation of a particular fruit returning, the initial taste sensation of that first fruit, the sadness (or relief because I'm sick of them) of the last fruit of the season. All these experiences are lost to those of us who buy only from our modern food industry. Personally, I glad I've rediscovered the enjoyment of local fruits. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sustainable Eating - Veggies

One of the difficulties I see people around me having in their quest to achieve sustainability is changing their food preferences to items that can be grown locally. Many people around here have moved to Hawaii from the mainland, and of course have brought their mainland diets with them. Even the locals here are hooked on imported foods. So when gardeners are learning to grow food, they naturally want to grow the things that they are use to eating (sorry to inform you, but pasta and pizza don't grow on a bush) like garlic, melons, zucchini, squashes, cauliflower, cucumbers, sweet corn, sweet peppers, asparagus, etc. The reason I'm mentioning these is that here in Hawaii they are very difficult to grow even for an experienced gardener. Plus some of their usual foods are those not normally seen in a garden, such as rice, sesame, soybean, and wheat.

I'm often asked for instructions in how I grow those difficult crops. Or how to force crops to produce out of their season. For example, gardeners often want bulb onions or yacon year around, but the plants won't do that. While I will give suggestions, I usually pair it with the suggestion of utilizing those local crops that normally grow well. Regretfully the suggestion is often just politely cast aside. (sigh...) But at least I might have put the idea into their heads. 

To achieve a sustainable diet here in Hawaii without investing in expensive screen houses and greenhouses, I find it easier to switch to veggies that I can grow. So that's exactly what I've done on the homestead -- grow more of the things that grow well here........and learn to cook with them.

...pipinola, in place of summer squash - the stem tips are edible too as a green
...sweet potato greens, in place of spinach
...New Zealand spinach, in place of spinach
...edible gourds and luffa, instead of summer squash
...landrace pumpkins, instead of winter squash
...garlic chives, in place of garlic
...salad burnet, in place of cucumbers in salads
...green onions, in place of bulbed onions

Plus utilizing unfamiliar but easily grown crops is a major step, too. 
...Okinawan spinach
...a wide selection of Chinese greens
...rat tail radishes. They are great in stir fry when picked at 2" in length. 
...local edible ferns

Some crops that grow easily here are not commonplace in the supermarkets. But they are worthy of learning how to eat.
...kohlrabi
...turnips
...swedes (rutabaga) 
...white beets
...Portuguese cabbage
...turnip greens 
...tomatillos
...cowpeas
...winged beans
...edible gourds
...yardlong beans
...pipinola greens
...taro
...yacon

In order to be sustainable, self sufficient, or "grow your own", I have to be flexible. And I have to be willing to try something new and unfamiliar. That's not an issue with me......but......hubby isn't all that flexible. He'd rather stick with things that he grew up with. So it's a struggle to get him to try new things and actually like them. Most of the new foods I can sneak into salads, stir fries, soups or stews. Most of the time he doesn't even notice them. About they only 'strange" new veggie he'll eat straight up is fried taro chips. He doesn't know it, but I often use puréed taro in soups and gravy as a filler and thickener. Sssshhh, don't tell him. 

Changing what gets put on the dinner plate is a giant hurdle for people who want to live a more sustainable or self sufficient lifestyle. Plus being Homo sapiens, by nature we don't like change. But I've learned that in order to achieve the lifestyle I'm aiming or, then change I must.......except for those two luscious meals out each week. Every Saturday morning I hear the bacon call my name!