Sunday, May 31, 2015

Using Wood Ashes

Sam K emailed me recently about wood ash. Since I'm running a woodstove, he wanted to know what I do with the ashes. 

First let me say, every location, soil, and growing situation is different. What I do may have absolutely no bearing on what you should do. What is beneficial to my garden may not be good, and may actually harm yours. have been warned.            Gosh darn, I'm down to using disclaimers! Just keep in mind that this blog is just relating my adventures of creating my homestead. It's not a how-to instructional book. Heck, if it were a book, I could be selling it.   ;) 

Ok, what do I do with ash. First, I run two different types of woodstoves. The one for cooking livestock feed is a TLUD (top loading updraft) stove that's primary purpose is to produce biochar. The heat is a by-product that I use to cook with. This type of stove makes very little ash, since the combustion process is limited and actually halted at the point that pyrolysis dramatically slows down. 

My ash producing stove is the conventional woodstove in the house. It is a Morso stove, though the brand name has no bearing on this matter. Commercial, conventional wood burners all produce ash. The Morso makes the collection of the ash easy because it has an ash pan under the burn chamber. I run this stove briefly just about every morning and night. So each week I get two to three pans of ash. 

The ash I collect comes from burning tree woods, mostly ohia, eucalyptus, and guava. These are the most common trees in my immediate area. A few other species are mixed in, when available. These include Christmasberry, mango, loquat, macadamia, citrus, ironwood, and Norfolk pine. 

My number one use of ash is for adjusting soil pH and increasing potassium in my pasture soils. My soil tends to get somewhat acidic due to the fact that I am downwind from an actively erupting volcano. Our rains are acidic. The volcanic soil is calcium deficient, which doesn't help with having acidic rain. 

Before applying ash, I check the soil pH. If it is 6.5 or higher, I won't apply ash. But it's always been lower since I started testing several years ago. Therefore I am comfortable with applying the ash. Oh, I test potassium too, and it has been testing low on untreated areas. 

I hand spread the ash just before a rain. In the above photo I've just spread the first pan of ash. I next applied the second pan, filling in the spots that I missed or only got a light covering. That night it rained. Good. 

I also use small amounts of wood ash in my vegetable gardens. The coral sand that I apply to garden soils only slowly adjusts the pH. When pH gets too low, I will use wood ash to more quickly bring the pH up to a veggie friendly level. Ash also adds potassium and essential plant minerals at the same time. 

Have I seen a difference when I use wood ash? In my pastures, yes. There is a significant visual improvement. The grasses grow faster, send out more runners, are greener looking. There is less moss and less ferns. I don't know all the science behind it, but the grasses and pasture herbs seem to respond in a positive fashion to a wood ash application.

In the veggie gardens there is not as a dramatic visual change. Most likely that's because of all the other soil amendments also being used at the same time.....manures, compost, mulch, coral sand, burnt bone, biochar, urine, various nutrient teas. The garden soil has been improved as I go along, so one application of one particular amendment (such as wood ash) doesn't result in a significant change. Plus I'm not using lots and lots of ash in the garden soils. Just a bit whenever it is called for. 

 Do I use ash for other purposes? No. I know that wood ashes have other uses, but I haven't tried any of them. Since I have acres of pasture that need improving, I have years of use for my wood ash that I will be generating. No need to look around for other things to use it for. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

I've been asked numerous times over the years about setting up my farm as a CSA. While it is tempting to have a steady income from the farm, a CSA just doesn't suit me. In fact, CSAs haven't been all that successful in my area. Why? The primary reason is the difficulty to maintain variety from week to week. In the tropics it is far too easy for a disease or pest to wipe out a crop. Zap, all gone! Thus a CSA farmer seems to be faced with a choice-- grow an abundance of extra crops so that if one or two get wiped out, you can still offer a variety. Or two, take the risk and hope that you don't get hit and lose crops. If you do, then you lose variety resulting in a loss of subscribers. 

If I would opt for the first (grow extra), then I would have a dilemma. What to do with that extra if it isn't needed for the CSA. One could pack it into the CSA boxes anyway, essentially giving it away for free but also conditioning your customers to expect more (and possibly later on even demand it!) Or hustle to find buyers via stores and restaurants. Or spend a day set up at a farmers market and hopefully sell it. But that's a day tied up where I could be doing something else that was needed to get done. De

So if I can't sell my excess, what else? I could attempt to give it away, possibly via the seniors community center.  Most care homes in my area would require me to be a registered supplier, so simply dropping off boxes of free fresh veggies wouldn't work. Churches might take some, maybe, but I was told by two churches that they couldn't handle perishable foods. Then I could just give it away to people, but I would surely end up with surly customers who were paying for the same stuff. Like most commercial farmers, I could just dig it back into the soil. Personally I couldn't bring myself to bury edible food. Lastly, I could feed it to my livestock. I suppose that would be the route I would take. That, and giving some away to my friends. 

Basically here are my reasons for not operating a CSA: 

... Tried to a schedule. I'd have deadlines to get things picked, cleaned, packed, and distributed. Now that I'm "retired" I shy away from deadlines. 
... Stress of having to maintain production. 
... Tied to pick up times or deliveries. 
... Couldn't take a week off to relax whenever I felt I needed it. 
... Have to deal with unhappy customers and complaints. Learned long ago that no matter what you do you can't keep everybody happy. Example ...I hear people complain that thy get too much greens, while someone else bitches that they don't get enough greens. 
... Too much CSA food goes wasted. That would irk me to death. I hear of CSA customers wasting food all the time. It goes into the trash. I know that's once they pay for it, it's their food. But CSAs are incredibly food wasteful. 
... Having to instruct people how to eat the foods they pick up. That's a complaint I hear from CSA operators. Subscribers want recipes. Many have never seen a turnip, rutabaga, kohlrabi, or daikon and haven't the foggiest idea what I do with it. In this day and age, just google it! But apparently that's not what happens. Customers want the CSA operator to teach them how to eat food. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I Did It Again

Call me crazy, but I've been at it again. Yup, I volunteered at another spay/neuter clinic....this time for dogs. But you will note from the photos that I'm not the only one that is willing to give up an entire day to someone else's project, risk coming home tired to the bone, and smelling of the pee, poo, and vomit that of course hit your shorts, socks, and shoes. But ya know, we all keep coming back time after time. We're all a touch crazy, no? 
If you've noticed, it's a local church that is hosting the clinic. This church gets a good star! 

This puppy needs a home. Now that it's neutered, it has a better chance of finding one that will be a lifetime home. Did you know that neutered dogs tend to keep their home forever while non-neutered dogs have far lower odds of keeping their home for their lifetime? True! Neutering makes a positive difference. 

These little pups are all snoozing, awaiting their turn. The surgery at this age is quick with minimal pain. They will be awake and active before long. 

Surprise!!! We also neutered five guinea pigs. That was a first for me. They all came through fine. Pretty neat. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Maui R&R

[....a bit of Hawaii information ....]

With a long weekend available, we opted for some more R&R. This time, a hop over to Maui. We've been to Maui several times for 1 or 2 day trips in the past and thought we had "done the island". Wrong. We managed to find several more things of interest, plus extras worth going back for.

As with all our Maui trips, we took in the Warren and Annabelle Show. I don't even need to say any ore that it's worth seeing since we've seen it 5 (or is it 6) times now. And we stayed at the Plantation Inn, as always. Why change when we've found winners. 

My main target this trip was a sugarcane workshop. I was totally enthused at the idea of attending. (Actually this trip's main purpose was this workshop and visiting cane and taro fields to gather more information.) Hubby couldn't have deemed the event any more boring than he did, so he was happier to go looking for a Starbucks and drink coffee for hours. 

Workshop over, now comes the Hawaiian vacation part......including the field trips for cane and taro mixed in. 

Bailey House Museum......
A historical small museum featuring the home and buildings of the Bailey family, furnishings, and collections. I found the original artwork depicting the countryside of the time (late 1800s and early 1900s) to be interesting. So that's what the bay looked like back then, the buildings, the Hawaiian homes and farms, the gardens and pastures. Visual history. Pretty cool. 
Several Hawaiian implements of the time period were also on display. Poi pounders (above), calabashes, fishing equipment, farm tools, kapa cloth, etc. There are several taro patches on the museum grounds with several Hawaiian varieties. 
The personal collection of tree snail shells collected by the Baileys was there. The above is only part of the collection. Alas, most tree snails are now extinct because of habitat destruction and over zealous collectors. different than today. As Spock said, "To hunt a species to extinction is illogical." We never learn. 

Walking vacations we find to be very relaxing......taxing sometimes, but still good. So after the field trips were accomplished we went looking for walking paths. We read about some petroglyphs that were suppose to be on a basalt cliff base, but the directions were vague. We searched here and there, walked about a mile up paths and a road until we found a little park....AND a paved road! Ah, the road not taken!! 
Of course the car is over a half mile away, so we just continued on foot. Came to this....
Oh show me a sign! Yes! We finally ended up in the right area and with a tad more walking found the petroglyphs. 
As with just about every petroglyph field that has open public access without a ranger to protect it, there was a lot of graffiti and defacing evident. Egads, people are such pigs and totally ignorant. To destroy history like this is inexcusable. But at least some of the petroglyphs were still undamaged. Even though the site has suffered, it is still very worth while seeing if you decide to make the trip. 

Another walk I'd highly recommend is the one mile walk, all uphill, to a bamboo forest. 
Walking in amid the bamboo was incredible. When I entered I immediately noticed the lack of breeze, increased humidity, stillness, no birds, new strange smell. Very spiritual. No, the smell wasn't my sweat, though at this point it would have been a good guess. I guess it was the bamboo and the vegetative decomposition going on. A pleasant enough smell. Just different. 

The walk through the bamboo forest is just about one mile, which brings one to a pretty neat waterfall. 
Water is coming out of the lava walls in multiple spots, creating lots of misty mini-falls in addition to this one large one pictured above. Viewing the falls and exploring around the area made us forget our tiredness for the time being. I wouldn't say that the walk was all that challenging, but it was entirely uphill for two miles. Moderate I guess I'd term it. So if you're up for this sort of walk, it is well worth it. Next time we do it, we plan to bring along a picnic lunch. The falls area, or even the bamboo forest, would be a great place to sit for an hour. 

I managed to acquire scads of info on sugarcane and taro plus tons of photographs of the various varieties. Well worth the trip. And topped the two day info gathering with a day of walking and exploring. All in all, an excellent trip. 

Slaughter Waste

"Flowerfly" recently sent me an email asking a question I get from time to to dispose of slaughter waste. I can't say how other people do it, but here's how I handle the waste on my own farm. 

First, nothing gets wasted, that is...thrown away in the trash.

Fur and feathers -- 
...added to a hot compost pile. If the pile is hot, there is no smell, no flies. 
...added in the layers that make up my pallet grow boxes. Again, if I use manures, moisture, and green waste the contents gets hot, resulting in no odor or flies. 
...placed in the bottom of a hole dug for a new tree, covered over well & mixed with dirt before planting the tree. 

Blood --
...collected and added to the food for pigs, chickens, or dogs. 

Intestines --
...I'll squeeze out the manure, then add them to the cook pot for the chickens and pigs. 

Rest of guts -- 
...cooked for pigs, chickens, dogs, or cats. 

The rest (heads, feet, etc) --
...cooked for pigs, chickens, dog, or cats. Any bones not consumed will get thrown into the wood stove and burnt. These are then collected, crushed, and used as a source of phosphorus for the gardens. 

I don't feed slaughter waste raw, especially to my dogs. I don't want them learning that the other livestock is edible food. It would be like training the dogs to kill and eat the chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc. Right now they don't associate the cooked items with the live animals. I'd like to keep it that way. 

I don't generate much slaughter waste myself, but I do get bags of it dropped off at my farm gate on a regular basis. Many hunters drop off waste in exchange for taro, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and assorted veggies. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hydroponics - Small Recirculating System

I haven't gotten very far into using hydroponic methods on the farm yet. I grow lettuce successfully in old gallon milk jugs. But I'd like to get more serious about growing certain things hydroponically. 

Last week I stopped by a friend's small homestead and saw that they had a small recirculating hydroponic set up for producing greens. Simplistic. A small pump set on a timer pumped the nutrient solution up to the pipe, whereupon the water flowed via gravity through the system and back to the water reservoir. During the daylight it pumps briefly about four times an hour. 

The system runs along the edge of their porch, out of the way of normal traffic. 

They say that this system is successful for them. It works. Using salvaged discarded pipe, it wouldn't be costly to set this up. And you'd be able to grow a wide variety of greens. Not a bad idea. By the way, they just replanted this system, so the baby plants are just getting acclimated. In a couple weeks they should be growing well. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

It's Yellow!!!

Heading down the driveway on my morning check of the livestock, I spied a blob about 12" by 18" atop one of the bio-trash pits (aka- an in ground hugelkultur bed).'s yellow!!!!! 

First thought....what the heck is it? 
Second looks like something alien vomited there. 

Closer inspection revealed a patch of yellow slime mold. Which by the way is often referred to as Dog Vomit Fungus. 

Slime molds are really neat. I find the brownish grey ones from time to time on my property but this is the first time I've come across a bright yellow one. I often find them when we are in an extended rainy period, and usually where there is wet rotting woody debris. Thus the bio-trash pit is ideal. This particular pit is still in the process of being filled, so there is plenty of rotting wood, twigs, and coarse stuff on the surface. Just prime real estate for molds and fungus. 

Contrary to some people, I welcome molds and fungus. They are instrumental in decomposing woody material. So having this stuff set up housekeeping in the pit is a cause for celebration. It means that things are healthy and well in the pit. By the way, this slime mold does not pose a danger to people. No need to panic and send me warnings. 

I had seeded this pit with mushroom spore about two months ago. Not edible kind, but I was just looking to encourage decomposition. So seeing mushrooms would have been expected. The slime mold was a pleasant surprise. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Recycle Bean Plants

So many people automatically assume that all my crop residue goes to making compost. Not so! Since I have a multitude of other sources for "waste" plant material, I channel edible plants to the livestock. As I see it, it is far more valuable as a substitute for store bought feed. Feed cost money....plenty of it here in Hawaii considering it all gets shipped in from the mainland. Trash vegetation for composting only cost me my time to gather it.

Today I checked the garden and saw that I had four spent beds of bean plants. All the beans had been picked, the variety (Maxibel) is not a rebloomer, so bean production is pau. Time to remove the plants and re-sow. 

Most gardeners I know do one of three things with old bean plants.....1) throw them into the compost bin, 2) stuff them into a trash bag, 3) throw them into the woods out of sight. #1 I might do, but 2 & 3-- never. Actually I opt for #4.....feed them to the livestock. In this case, it's the rabbits. My rabbits will eat the entire plant that is cut off at ground level. 

Ground level, did I say? Yup. I leave the root system of beans and peas in the ground. These plants form nitrogen fixing nodules on their roots. While the science behind nitrogen fixation is incomplete, the general option is that once the plant and roots die, the root nodules decompose thus making that nitrogen available for the next crop. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pea Ascochyta

I've been hit by a disease new to me. I haven't seen it before. But the weather these past several weeks has been prime for encouraging diseases, especially fungal ones. And that's what is getting my peas, fungal diseases ......ascochyta. 

At first I thought that I had planted some infected seed, because I first noticed this on one variety. But a more careful look showed that all the peas were showing signs. Every variety, young and old. Those planted up by the house, along the driveway, back by the pasture, and down in the main garden area. So now I'm thinking that the spores are blowing in from some other location. With the daily rain and lack of good sunshine, it doesn't surprise me that fungus is happy. 

I hoped that the weather would dry out, but no such luck. All the pea plants are dying, so I took them all out today. A total loss of the crop. 

From what I gathered on the Internet, there's not much to be done. Removing the plants and avoiding planting peas again in the vicinity is all I can do. So I will forego peas until the weather dries out. Then I will try them in a totally new area....and cross my fingers. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Answers for TresJoile

Questions are always welcome! Since I don't know if TresJolie knows how to have replies to her comments emailed to her, I've opted to make this post. 

1- Obamacare? I've read in the newspapers that many people in Hawaii signed up under Obamacare. So for some people, the new system was a benefit. For many people though, their medical premiums skyrocketed (often doubled!) while at the same time the coverage plummeted. Not so good then. 
2- Are goats good for clearing land? Yes and no. There is a lot of vegetation here that is too tough or inedible for goats. But many people use them to help keep the brush and coarse grasses from growing back. 
3- Do you suffer actual hate? Racial prejudice occurs in Hawaii, and some regions are worse than others. Ka'u has a reputation for being a spot where everybody fits in, meaning that were all a bit odd....some more so than others, plus we are pretty tolerant of the oddness in others. And while some Hawaiian and local types may flair into a flurry of racial slurs during an emotional outburst, generally most people in Ka'u are willing to let live. 
4-Solar electric installation. Frankly, the vast majority of off grid systems are installed without permits nor licensed electricians. Nor licensed contractors. People either do their own, have the solar guys do it, or have a knowledgable neighbor do it. 
5- Straw bale gardening. Straw around here is imported from the mainland and thus is very expensive. Expect to pay $35 a bale or more. So straw bale gardening isn't practiced here. 
6- We are both 64. You're just a tad younger than us. Many people arrive here in their mid sixties. 
7- The challenge of gardening. Soil, wind, and weather conditions can change here every few miles. Some areas are better for gardening than others. Regardless of where one gardened before, new gardeners here need to learn the local quirks, pests, and diseases. While it's not a whole new ball game, there is plenty of things that are different. 
8- How to stop abandoning pets. That's a big question. Animal welfare groups here push for neutering and microchipping. The goal is to stop the glut of excess animals and to have permanent ID. There is no SPCA in Ka'u, nor any plans to build one. So abandonment is a problem. 

Edible Flowers in my Gardens

As you know, I love flowers. Their beauty makes my heart joyful. But they often have another eat and/or beautify my food. 

It wasn't until the past 15 years or so that I gave much thought to eating flowers. I knew, as a child, that  my cousin made wines from lilacs and dandelions. But other than that, flowers were never found on the dinner table. 

In the past couple of years my diet has turned to more salads. Crazy mixed up salads. And I've begun to include flowers for a bit of color. Here's what I'm growing that I'll steal a few flowers to add to the bowl......

Beans ... A mild slightly earthy flavor. I prefer the purplish ones. 
Leeks ... A mild oniony flavor. 
Chives...A mild oniony flavor. 
Onions...A mild oniony flavor. 
Garlic chives....A mild garlicky flavor. 
Nasturtium....Peppery and a bit tangy. Very colorful. 
Violet...Perhaps mildly sweet. There isn't much to them, but the color is nice.
White ginger...Mildly gingerish. 
Rose....A light flavor with a hint of rose. The first time I tried them they had bitterness to them then I found out that you're suppose to remove the white base. So using scissors, I just snip off the colored part of the petals, discarding the rest. It's easy when you hold the entire flower in be hand and wield scissors in the other. Roses are fun because they come in so many different colors. 
White clover....Sweetish with a hint of licorice. Chewy. I usually only use one per salad bowl, as a garnish. 
Marigolds....Peppery. I use sparingly just for accent color. Some varieties don't taste too good, but others are fine. 
Squash....Mild. Not much too them. I just use the petal part. And I've only tried using them in stirfry so far. 
Pumpkin....Same as squash. 
Sunflower....Mild, I prefer to drop them into a stirfry. I haven't tried them raw in salad. 
Radish....A sweet radish flavor. None of the bite associated with the root. 
Bok choy and rest of broc/cabbage family....Small and not much taste, but they look pretty atop a salad. 
Basil....quite small. If it weren't for the flavor, I wouldn't bother with them. They taste like the variety that they are, that is, minty, lemony, clovey, etc. 
Dill....Well, like dill. 
Gladiolus ....I just use the petals as a salad garnish. Not much flavor. Kind of like lettuce I think. It's the color that is nice. 
Edible hibiscus.....Mild and slightly.....I'd say acidic. 
Impatiens....Insipid (ha, how often do i get to use THAT word!) I'll add just for color to salads.
Johnny jump ups....Bland. Nothing to them. A couple atop a salad for color, that's all. 
Pea....A mild pea flavor. Crunchy. 

Scarlet runner beans... Mild slightly earthy flavor. Very colorful. 

I don't use a lot of flowers, so I don't know what would happen if I ate a lot of them. Usually I'll just pop a couple in the bowl for accent color. 

There are more edible flowers out there, but these are the ones that I grow to date. Next on my list to try growing, and sampling, will be dianthus, bee balm, and borage. They look so incredibly colorful that I'd love to give them a try. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Bromeliads are my style plant -- no decent soil needed and basically ignore them. Wow, can't get better than that! 

I've planted some by simply moving two rocks out of way, sticking the plant into the hole, then replacing the rocks. What can be easier, eh? 

I've noticed that some varieties prefer sun, others shade. But other than that, I treat them all pretty much the same. When I remember to water them, I do. That's pretty sporadic. Otherwise they survive on the rainwater collected at the base of their leaves. Since we get rain frequently at the homestead, the bromeliads do just fine. 

Occasionally these things bloom. The blooms vary quite a bit between the different varieties. Some are quite spectacular. I don't know what triggers blooming, but when I least expect it I'll find one blooming its head off. 

Another thing, they come in all sorts of sizes. I've got a few miniature types. And on the opposite extreme, I've got a few that are humongous. Then there are the vast number that are in between. 

Since most of my bromeliad plants survive my hit and miss attention, they must be one tough plant. 

The only downside to bromeliads is that the collect water in their crowns. That makes a nice spot for breeding mosquitos. So once a month I will walk around and drop a few of those mosquito control granules into each bromeliad crown. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Gardener's Soul

After my sustainable eating posts, I got a number of emails about growing food, among which were folks who said they viewed gardening & growing food as a necessary evil, a chore. What a shame. I don't think I'd be gardening if it was just a chore to be accomplished. No, I'm glad I've got a farmer's soul, actually a raging, rabid desire to till the earth and grow things. I get a lot of pleasure from gardening. I'm happy when seeds sprout. I get extreme pleasure out of seeing plants grow. 
 (A small taro patch.) 

Gardeners yearn for spring. Or they dream of living someplace where they can garden year around. During down times they pour over seed catalogs and create their dream garden. During the growing season they willingly put in sweaty work, then nurse sore muscles only to go do it again and again. They tend. They feed. They water. The start seeds indoors. And they love to discuss the pros and cons of various potting mixes, fertilizers, and vegetable varieties. And they long for that first tomato of the season. Yup, that all sounds like me. 
(Freshly dug Hawaiian sweet potatoes.)

In regions with winters, a gardener's soul will pace like a caged tiger waiting for the ground to thaw. They know not only which USDA growing region they are in, but also the last frost date. Come spring, they are rearing to go. When out sharing a dinner with friends, heaven help us if someone starts talking about gardening. Dinner conversation will quickly deteriorate to discussions like...
...which is better, horse manure or chicken manure productive a particular worm bin can be
...where's the best place to buy blood meal this year you drop plucked bugs into a can of soapy water vs. squashing them with your fingers
Non-gardening diners may quickly lose their appetites. 
(Bountiful harvests.)

Today I offered a non-gardening person a green bean right off the plant. I could see the hesitation. Uuuhhh, raw? Uuuuuhh, unwashed, non-sanitized? I greedily munched a few I plucked, whereupon he gingerly tried his. Then I saw a real transformation....then a smile. He was surprised how juicy and sweet it was. Before long we were talking about how to grow green beans and he left my place with a cupful of bean seed. Perhaps I witnessed the birth of a gardener. Now wouldn't that be nice! 

Hawaiian Pidgin

First of all, people who don't live in Hawaii have some completely dead wrong ideas of what goes on here. Speaking pidgin is one of them. Locals don't go around speaking pidgin all the time. Sure, many lifelong locals who were raised in Hawaiian oriented culture, do indeed know how to speak in a local pidgin. If you're in the right circles, you'll hear it among pig hunters, fishermen, small farmers, though most will switch to English if you join the conversation. I've become aware of different levels of pidgin, some mixing more English pronounctions than others. Some pig hunters I've met are so strong in pidgin that I can barely understand them, while others just mix in popular phrases with the English. But where the fun comes in is when we speak some level of pidgin just to mess with the tourists, Some fun, eh? You bet! 

Much of the words are English words but pronounced differently. 
Three is pronounced tree, like in "I want tree hotdogs."
The becomes da, as in "I need da kine." 
Thing comes out ting. "No ting happen here." 

Lots of little pidgin like phrases slip into daily town talk.....
Store clerk, "Want one bag?" Customer, "No need." 
Person at post office, "I want one stamp." Postal clerk, "How many?" Person, "Tree". 
Person #1 "Cuz went off island." Person #2 "Aw, I never know." 

One of my friends is quite fluent in pidgin, far more so than I. I tend to think of her as being somewhat feral. While I couldn't hold up my end of a pidgin conversation with her, I have had fun incorporating pidgin into our conversations when we were on the mainland together a couple of times. Things like....
....I saw choke cars on da highway. 
....When we going shopping? .... (reply) Bumbye. 
....Don't talk stint. 
....Dis food is mo bettah. 
....They got pu pus on da menu? 
....Dis ono kau kau come wit choke fries. 

This makes me think of that story....
(First a bit of background. Kau kau used as a verb means to eat. Kau kau as a noun means food, cow and kau are pronounced the same.) 
A horse broke into a neighbor's pasture, where it ate up the neighbor's cow grain pellets. The cow owner confronted the horse owner about it--
Horse kau kau cow kau kau. 
Horse no can Kau Kau cow Kau Kau. Cow Kau Kau cow Kau Kau. 

Ha! Try repeating that one fast from memory! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Eat Meat That You've Raised?

I'm noticing that a goodly number of new "back to the farm" types are saying that they are vegetarians. 
I got to wondering about the unusually high percentage of non-meat eaters among this group. I happen to correspond with several, so I asked some questions. While two cited "healthier life choice", most said that they couldn't eat an animal now that they've gotten to know them. 

So I find that it's a good question to ask a wannabe.......could you eat meat from an animal you raised? It's really a critical consideration, especially since most people go into "grow your own" ventures with the intent of actually living off what they raise. 

Slaughtering an animal is an unpleasant experience for most farmers that I've talked to. It's a necessary job. But for a novice farmer, it can be horrifying or repulsive. I'm seeing that many newcomers cannot bring themselves to kill an animal, even if done humanely. My suggestion........hire someone else to do the slaughtering (and perhaps even the butchering) for you. Several livestock people in my own area don't do their own slaughtering and butchering. Either the animal is dropped off with a friend/neighbor who does the job in exchange for some of the meat, or taken to the local slaughterhouse. Either way, the meat comes back not looking like the creature it came from. An easy denial system to get around the dilemma. 

One of my friends cannot do the slaughtering but wants to butcher his own. So he has his neighbor stun and bleed the animal, skin and gut it. Then he takes over. This system works for him. The neighbor gets some free meat. 

I've talked with other people in my area about this sticky issue. Can you eat something you've seen as a live animal? Surprisingly, most could not. Buying packaged meat is the grand solution. Not only haven't you seen the animal or butchered it, in your mind you can even deny it came from an animal in the first place. It's beef , not a cow. It's pork, not a pig. That another sort of denial that goes on too. 

I had several people say the supermarket meat is safer, more sanitary that home raised/home butchered. They also believe it is more nutritious because professional farmers (the experts, I was told) would know to feed the animals vitamins and better feed. Hum, I don't necessarily agree with this reasoning. But it does bring up done good points. Home butchering poorly done could result in contaminated meat. And animals poorly fed could be less nutritious. But I would think that most people would take care to do things well knowing that they themselves would be eating the meat. 

Many people said that they could no more eat an animal that they have seen face to face than they could eat their pet cat or dog. I offered a solution to these people -- swap their animal with their neighbor, but send the neighbor's animal directly to a slaughterhouse. That way you would not have seen it. Funny thing, most people still said no. I guess it's supermarket meat in their house. Just the thought of it having been a warm breathing animal in their vicinity was too much. 

Personally I have no problem with slaughtering and butchering my own. In fact, I prefer it to supporting the supermarket meat industry. My own animals live a good life compared to meat market livestock. I was taught how to humanely dispatch an animal and how to butcher them. I strongly prefer home slaughter as compared to shipping the animal somewhere else for the task. 

But not everyone in my household agrees. Hubby is a diehard supermarket meat person. That plastic wrapped stuff that lies on a styrofoam tray has nothing to do with some animal with eyes and legs. He is one who cannot eat an animal that he knows. That being said, we have an understanding in our house ....... a subject never to be discussed is where the meat we are eating came from. Don't ask, don't say, don't think about it. Oh well, the system works for us. I just don't tell him what kind of meat is in the soup.  ;) 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Most of today there has been an out of control brushfire raging in my area. With a brisk tropical wind blowing plus plenty of dry fuel on the ground, such fires are taken seriously. They can easily end up burning hundreds, more often thousands of acres. 

First of all, the fire is not near our homestead farm, but it is near the seed farm. In fact, the seed farm is right in the fire's path. But that's not the issue that's on my mind. Being prepared and having a plan in place in advance is what I was thinking about. 

First....the seed farm. There's nothing there that would be much of a loss. The particular tools stored there can be easily replaced. While there is seed growing there right now, all the varieties can easily be restarted. Part of forethought was to limit how many seeds were planted at any one time. I always keep some seeds in reserve so that a crop failure won't wipe me out. Thus, if the seed farm burns, I'll just count my good fortune and be glad that I won't have to weed wack for the next couple of months. 
Above photo by Pamela Taylor. 

But what if a brushfire heads for one's home? Would I be prepared? And...prepared for what and in what fashion? I've lived in forest fire areas before, so much of the preparation comes naturally now. I can only hope that those folks living in the path of this brushfire were prepared. As of this time, the fire has burnt one home and 15 acres. No one has been hurt. Many, many homes have been evacuated. 

I've made it a habit to have much of my super important papers in one metal box that I can quickly grab and run. When it comes to bugging out, I'm not going to risk my life over artwork, jewelry, photos, mementos. My decision -- let it burn. 

My main concern will be our animals. When we lived in NJ, we had a forest fire come within one mile. Though the risk was low, we considered evacuating all the animals. No simple task, but we had prepared for this by storing a horse trailer on the property and having a shipping crate on hand for each animal. At the time I had numerous dogs and cats. Not only had we prepared for how to move the animals out, but also where they would go. I had an understanding with various friends as to where  my animals would stay until they could return to my place. We reciprocated of course, offering our small farm as refuge for their livestock if perchance they were in a fire risk themselves. 

So what about now, a homestead with livestock? Local custom here is to release small livestock, such as chickens and ducks so that they aren't trapped in their pens. Larger livestock is driven along the roads to safer pastures. Ranchers open pastures to give refuge to these evacuated animals until the fire risk has passed. Yes, I would release my birds. Rabbits would go into travel boxes for moving. Large livestock, once the police had secured the roadway, would be driven down to safe pasture. Our cats & dogs would be evacuated via our vehicles and be taken one direction or the other to friends' properties. 

I like to think that I have a plan already in place in my head. I've been going over the steps in my mind and believe that I am as prepared as I want to be. Well, maybe I could tweak a couple of things. I'll have to look into that. 

How about yourselves? 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Drivel - A Little R&R

I've talked about this before....the need for R&R. Lately my hectic pace has been catching up to me. I'd say it's a case of trying to cram 40 years of farming life into just 10. After all, I've gotten a last start! But it's catching up to me and I've been real tired out lately. So it's time to accept the need for rest. Plus the need to cutback a bit. 

So we took a Hawaiian vacation, to Lana'i this time. Lana'i is one of the smaller, less visited islands. Less visited = less there to entertain the usual tourists. There are two resorts there that are the main attractions. In fact, very few tourists ever leave the resort locations, simply shuttling between the two. But these resorts were not our destination. They held no appeal for us. So instead of staying at one of the two resorts, we opted for the Hotel Lana'i. Old. Quaint. Old Hawaii. 
If you go, don't expect TV or phone, but they do have highspeed Internet wifi. No air conditioning. No gym. No spa. Oh yes, did I mention, no hot water? The hotel is notorious for tepid showers. Irregardless, we loved the place and were quite comfortable there. But if you do decide to go, ask for room 8 or 10. They are the quietest. Otherwise bring earplugs. 

The dining associated with the hotel is quite good. 

Our aim was to explore the back roads. This meant renting a 4x4 jeep. Oh did anyone ever mention that you can't lock your stuff securely in a jeep? 
The windows all unzip!!! 

Lana'i doesn't have much in the way of roads. Don't expect to spend days tooling the countryside here. We didn't. But we still didn't get all the roads explored. No, we stop too often to hike about and check out the beaches and wildlife. 
Lots of secluded tiny beaches along the coasts. And large stretches of coastline with just sheer cliffs. 

I wouldn't say this island is teeming with wildlife, because it is primarily desert. But we happened upon deer, mouflon, mice, several species of birds including an i'o, plus assorted insects. And sand crabs of some sort.......

Most of the road we travelled was definitely 4 wheel drive. Parts were rough enough to actually rattle the change out of my pockets! 

Ancient Hawaiian presence is evident around the island, if you know what to look for and where to go. A quick look-see in various locations gave us a taste of petroglyphs and building foundations.......

All along the coast there are incredible coves and beaches that were utilized by the Hawaiians. Some are set up for visitor viewing.....

Above, you don't get the sense of the landscape from that photo. In actuality there is a 65 foot drop over the cliff from that spot, right into the ocean below.

You only have to endure one more travel picture........Lana'i City from a distance. 
There is only one town on the entire island. It hosts about close to 3000 residents. We found that we liked this town quite a bit.