Sunday, November 29, 2015

Using Hair, Fur, and Feathers

What do I use to make my compost? I get a lot of requests for my compost formula, a recipe so to speak. Well, I have no set recipe. I add whatever organic, non-toxic material that I have. Plus some things that are not organic in nature, such as lava sand, volcanic cinder, ocean water. The basic idea is to keep the material moist (but not soaking), aerated, have both nitrogen containing and non-nitrogen containing material, and to have it chopped into small pieces if possible. If the compost isn't working, then one of those factors is out of whack.

Because I get so many questions about compost and soil amendments, I've decided to post a string of articles about this subject, strictly about what I do, not how others should do it. My methods may be right, but then again, they might be wrong or just a tad screwy. I'll focus on the popular points and answer questions that I've gotten. So here it goes. 

Question received ...... "Can hair be added to a compost pile?"

Answer .... Yes. 

For years I've been throwing human hair trimmings to the gardens. So either it goes into a compost pile or it just goes right directly into the soil. I see no compelling need to subject it to the heat of composting because :
a) hubby doesn't have head lice
b) the dogs don't have fleas, other skin parasites, or infections
c) the sheep don't have lice or other skin problems

So I use hair, fur, and wool. And even feathers. 

Above......I trimmed hubby's hair the other day. Rather than throw the hair into the trash, I swept them up and added them to a garden bed that I'm working on. So although he never gets his hands dirty or even picks a ripe veggie, he's contributing to our food production. Ha. 

Human hair is just fine in the garden. I'm told that other gardeners collect hair from hair salons to use. Purists may warn and scream about chemical contamination. While there are probably small bits of various chemicals in that hair, I would venture to say it's no worse than all the pollutants that the garden is already exposed to that come along in the rain, that are in the air, that are everywhere we turn. Face it, we can never be truely chemical-free anymore. The world where I live is too contaminated. Most gardeners can only use commonsense and avoid dangerous levels of noxious chemicals. That being said, yes, I use human hair......hubby's and my own. 

What is probably more chemical free than human hair would be pet fur from one's own dogs or from pet grooming shops. Pet fur wouldn't be as subjected to dyes, conditioners, and styling agents as human hair. I personally have three dogs that are seasonal shredders, thus I get piles of fluffy fur when they shed. It all goes into the garden to one place or another. 

Above is some of Willie's fur added to the hugel bed. He's just starting to shed again. Over the next few weeks he'll donate bags of fur. 

My feather source is the birds we process for food. Chickens. Ducks. Turkeys. While some of the feathers are set aside for artist friends, most simply go into the soil. 

Is there much benefit to hair, fur, or feathers for the soil? I don't know exactly what it would be, but it's organic material going back to nature and that sounds good enough to me. In Mother Nature, animals die and their fur, feathers, or scales decompose, becoming part of the soil. Thus recycling these things would be an acceptable permaculture method. 

Hair and feathers break down slowly. So you might be able to visually identify them in the soil for months. Think of it as a slow release fertilizer. Since they are slow to decompose, I spread it out rather than leaving it in big clumps. 

With sheep wool, I take advantage of the fact that it slowly decomposes. I use it for mulching. It tends to produce a felted mat that suppresses weeds but allows rain water through. I don't have enough sheep for wool to be a big item in my garden. Afterall, I only have hair sheep, not woollies. But I'll use what I can get. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rainfall Records & Rain Gauges

When I first came to Hawaii, I knew very little about the weather here and sunlight cycles. Hawaii is always paradise, no? So why worry about it, right? I was aware enough to know that this wasn't a good approach. So what was paradise really like? 

Among the first things I purchased when we arrived were an outdoor thermometer and a rain gauge. Every day at 5 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. I recorded the temperature. Every morning at 7 a.m. I recorded the rain amount. I also kept daily records about sunshine. When did the sun first hit the roof, at what angle, how many hours a day did we get full sun, and what were those hours. This sun data became valuable with our future solar electric project. 

Getting an idea about the rain patterns I knew would be important., too Afterall, I wanted to grow gardens of food and flowers. So I became diligent about keeping records. Over the years I used the exact same rain gauge (the orange one pictured below) so that my measurements would have consistent meaning. Well it isn't exactly the same one because along the way some of the gauges wore out from the tropical sunlight, one got stolen by one of the dogs and chewed up into tiny pieces, another I accidently broke. But they were all the same type. 

Just recently I started posting my rain data to COCORAHS website. So I needed a better rain gauge, one that everybody else in COCORAHS was using. So I bought the one pictured below.

It's one very nice gauge. Easy to set up. Easy to use. Easy to clean. Easy to read. The gauge has a central cylinder that lifts out for reading and an outer larger cyclinder to collect rains over one inch. Picture below is the inner core that I've removed so that I can read the rain amount.

I got mine on course. If one lives in Hawaii, one often becomes a regular customer on Amazon Prime. 

Anyway, back to rain. 

It was interesting to learn that most of my rain occurs at night. And most comes in small increments. Occasional rains bring 3"-5". Really heavy rains don't happen too frequently. Some years I get 60 to 80 inches of rain. Other times it's only 15 to 30 inches. Drought seems to be cyclic. 

Since I get almost all my water via the rain, I'm very conscious of rainfall amounts. It took a few years to get a good sense about the rain, to discover which seasons and months tend to bring the most rain. And that's quite important when it comes to figuring out when to plant various crops. 

Oh one other thing I learned while keeping rain records, the amount of rain one gets here varies considerably from place to place. Elevation has a big bearing on the amount of rain, but also location relative to the tradewinds and the volcano. Surprisingly, even one mile can make a significant difference. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Papaya Experiment

I love to experiment. I suppose you noticed that by now. Well, someone asked me how to propagate a papaya tree so that it would produce true to the original fruit type. You see, if I save seed from an exceptionally nice papaya fruit, that seed may have been produced with pollen from some other less desirable tree, therefore giving less preferred fruit in the next generation. Papaya doesn't come true to seed, and unless one intentionally controls the pollination process, you never know what you'll get. Maybe similar to the mother tree, maybe not. 

So here I am. I find myself with a tree producing a nice flavored fruit. How can I clone this tree? I suppose I could reproduce it via tissure culture, although in not sure that works with papayas. But regardless, I don't have the equipment nor the skill to do tissure culture propagation. Or I could purposely pollinate a female flower with the tree's own pollen and hope for the best. This tree came from seed given to me, so I don't know it's genetic background. So even self pollinating it may not give me the type of fruit I am looking for. This tree could be like a mixbred mutt....a combination of assorted DNA. 

Air laying is a possibility if a tree produces side branches. I've never heard of anyone air layering a papaya. But it's something I plan to try in the future if my current experiment fails. The other day an elderly neighbor suggested the "tropics method" of simply taking a cutting and sticking it into the ground. Ok. That's the easiest method, and surprisingly it works for a lot of tropical plants. Will it work for papaya? I haven't the foggiest idea. Sooooo, why not give it a try? 

Above is the papaya I will experiment with. It has grown two side shoots coming off the "trunk". 

Here's a closer photo. Stepping up to the tree, I bravely and firmly snapped the too shoots off from the tree. Having never done this before I wasn't even sure if the shoots would come off. Would I need a saw? Would they just bend? Surprisingly they came of easily and cleanly. 

So here are my two shoots. The stalks are firm and somewhat woody at the base, no longer green. When I removed them from the trunk, they came off with a "collar" at their base. The collar is a decided raised band around the stalk where it joins the trunk. In some plants, roots grow out from the collar zone, so I wonder if this is important for papayas too. I was careful to leave the collars intact and undamaged. I next removed all the leaves except for the top few baby leaves.

I then planted about 10 inches of the stalk into the ground and watered them well. By the next day the leaves had wilted. I had expected that they would. So I again watered the shoots. The past several days have been overcast with light drizzle, which is excellent for this experiment. The ground is staying moist. There has been no wind to dry the shoots out. And importantly, no sun. The weather conditions are giving these shoots their best chance at rooting via this simplistic method. 

I don't know how long it will take for roots to develop, assuming that roots will actually grow at all. But 6 days have passed and the leaves still look perky and the stalks haven't rotted yet. We will have to check back in on this experiment in a week or two and see what's happened. 

If this experiment fails, I plan to try using some rooting hormone on the next attempt. Well actually, I plan to consult a friend who is retired from agricultural research. He may be able to give me options to try. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Container Gardening on Lava Land

Living on a lava rock island, I hear plenty of people whining that they can't grow vegetables because they have no soil. Sorry, but no sympathy from me. Zero! I've had good success using my pallet grow boxes. But on their down side, they require a lot of organic material to fill them. But don't dispair. A friend of mine is proving that you can grow successfully in smaller containers. 

I was just up at my friend's house, and was taken on a tour of her garden. She's been quite creative....and successful. 

She proves that you don't need to go out and buy expensive bags of topsoil. Nor do you need to spend money for containers. Dead coolers and discarded plastic barrels cut in half work just fine. 

Right now she has peas, potatoes, and gourds. She's had success with radishes in the past. In her area she could do well with most cool season crops. 

One thing that I noticed that is an advantage with containers is that you can position them in spots according to the sun. Full sun. Part sun. Morning sun, afternoon shade. That sort of thing. This gives much more flexibility in gardening efforts. 

This friend is a master gourd grower. She grows amazing gourds even though her land is basically just lava with a thin layer of duff. It's all due to container gardening. 

She started out with just a thrown away cooler. Every year she recycles the soil that she's created by adding more organic stuff -- weeds, grass, and pulled up plants. The coarse stuff, such as coconut husks and such, go into the bottom of the containers, with the finer stuff atop that. I see that she has been increasing the number of containers as time goes by. Great! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yacon Harvest

Thanksgiving, time to start harvesting yacon. I went back and checked on the plants. One pallet box is ready. The other looks like it still needs a couple of weeks more. 

This is what the plants looked like in the first pallet grow box. They've bloomed out and are losing all their leaves. 

Harvesting the yacon was so easy. It was a matter of disconnecting one side of the box then using my hands to scoop out the soft soil/compost. The roots were readily exposed. 

Once I twisted off the tubers that were exposed, I then could easily pull on the stalk to pull the rest of the root ball out. How easy! 

The edible tubers are the tannish things that look like fat sweet potatoes. The propagation tubers, or knobs, are at the base of the stalk and are considerably smaller. In the above picture, they are white. In the picture below, they are reddish due to the fact that the soil wasn't covering them as well.

I'm amazed at how many edible tubers the plants produced. I got a full five gallon bucket of varying sized tubers from this one pallet grow box. When I've grown yacon in the ground, I didn't see such heavy production. Plus it was difficult to harvest the tubers without breaking them all. 

By growing the yacon in the pallet grow boxes, the tubers were nicely formed, big, plentiful, and simple to gather. I was impressed. Impressed enough to say that this is the way I plan to grow yacon for now on. 

Bonus......I got a half a yard of nice composty soil from the box. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Dengue Fever Update

The bad news.....

... To date, 88 confirmed cases. Authorities expect the number to rise. 
... The outbreak is expected to last at least a few more months.
... Mosquito repellant and mosquito controls are not available in stores most of the time, leaving most people with poor protection. 
... I'm located in one of the high risk areas. 
... It's raining a lot, making it difficult to eliminate mosquito breeding areas. 

The good news......

... I managed to buy two cans of Deep Woods Off today. 
... I managed to buy several containers of mosquito control granules via 

Residents here generally believe that the county is ineffective in combating this problem. The county is doing a lot of "talk story" and shutting the barn door after the horse got in talking about the severe mosquito problem in and around the schools but just now (this coming week) getting around to doing something about it now that many children are testing positive for dengue. Plus lots of community informative talks, but no area mosquito control or spraying. 

I saw in the news today that authorities announced that tourists need not change their plans and thus avoid coming to Hawaii. But I see that 13 tourists have caught dengue so far, that we know of. Heaven knows how many went home, got sick, and thought they had the flu. I suppose the authorities feel that the tourist dollars are far more important than tourist health. Residents are saying, "If the government thinks that tourists should still come here, then why doesn't Vector Control fog all the mosquito infested beaches and areas to kill the mosquitos?" Um, good point. Perhaps the fogging should have begun weeks, no change that to, months ago. It's November now and the health department knew of the problem in September. 

We're being diligent about mosquito control and avoiding mosquito bites. But it's sometimes difficult to  avoid the buggers. So we now travel with a spray can of mosquito repellant so that we have it on hand if we see the little stealth biters. On my own homestead I've been maintaining my baited mosquito killing mini ponds in order to kill the future generations. I walk the property after each rain, eliminating any standing water. This weekend I plan to go on a search & destroy mission on some neighboring properties where the owners are absentee owners. 

One of the blog's readers sent me instructions on making a simple homemade mosquito trap. One empty two liter soda bottle, black tape, warm water, yeast, and sugar. I have no idea if it will work, but it's surely worth a try. I'll be making several of them this weekend. Guess I'll be dumpster diving for those soda bottles! 

Unless the authorities get aggressive in controlling mosquitos, get insistent on eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, I see this dengue fever outbreak continuing until the next drought. There is suppose to be a big El Niño event right now, though we haven't seen the drought that usually accompanies one. Personally, I'm praying for 90 days of zero rain. That seems to be our best bet for ending this epidemic. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Food Safety

I recently received information from a government agency about on-farm bio security and food safety. It listed plenty of things that I would need to do if I wished to sell the food I produce to customers such as the food bank, schools, institutions, supermarkets, and such. I'm truely amazed what a mess our food system has gotten into that such requirements are now necessary. Our government sees commercially produced foods to be rather hazardous, actually dangerous and at times lethal. E. coli, listeria, toxoplasmosis, salmonella, campylobacter, norovirus , botulism, cryptosporidium, cyclosporiasis, just to name some for the current buzzwords. Contaminated food is far to common, in my way of thinking. 

By taking responsibility for most of my own food, I side step most of the "food poisoning" contaminants associated with modern foods. (I also eliminate all the chemicals found in commercial foods too.) Of course it's up to me myself to correctly cleanse and handle my own food. I totally accept that responsibility. 

I deem the fact that I'm avoiding the various problems and concerns with commercial foods to be side benefit of homesteading. It wasn't the reason I got into doing this. But the more that I'm learning about the state of commercially produced foods, the more I'm interested in producing my own. Besides, I'm getting to an age where food poisoning could kill me. Kind of a scary thought, for real. 

So in my own mind, homesteading has added a new line to its definition...... produce one's own clean and safe foods, to take responsibility for one's own food safety.....

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Coffee Bean Borer

There are a couple of pests that attack coffee, with the new kid on the block being the coffee bean borer. It's an incredibly tiny, itsy-bitsy black beetle that totally ruins the coffee bean that it bores into. Bad news. 

Up until last year I was not aware of any borer problems with my trees. But last year's harvest was affected and I suddenly became keenly aware of this pest. 

I don't have any photos to show you of the little beetle itself because I aggressively go after any infested immature cherries. Plus I diligently keep any dropped cherry picked up. Picked cherry is rigorously screened for borer and any infested cherries are totally destroyed. Thus I don't happen to have adult beetles walking around. I do indeed have traps for the female beetles, but currently they're aren't any in them to show you. If you're curious you'll just have to look it up on google. 

But I can show you infested green cherries. I went out searching for them today. Green immature cherries get bored into when they are the size of a jelly bean. The hole is always on the blossom scar end, sometimes dead center in the scar, sometimes slightly off to the side. Like the beetle itself, the hole is real tiny. 

Any cherry that I find with a hole is picked and destroyed so that no beetles can escape. If I cut through one of these green cherries, this is what it looks like inside. Either half, or the entire cherry is black and in the process of being destroyed. In the photo below, those three green cherries all have tiny holes visible. If I cut them open, they would be black inside too. 

Right now I'm checking my trees every two weeks. That seems to be enough. I'm not finding much damage. But I know that I'll never be able to eliminate the coffee bean borer from my farm. Why? One of my near neighbors has hundreds of feral, unattended coffee trees and has no interest in treating them for the borers. Plus she doesn't want anyone else to be messing on her property. Sigh. So I'm stuck with dealing with the borer. The best I can do is to prevent more beetles from propagating and trap as many females as I can before they find my trees. In the future, should the damage I am seeing becomes significant, then I plan to invest in fungi treatment to kill the remake beetles. Right now I am losing too little coffee to justify the expense and time to do this more aggressive treatment. Let's hope it stays that way for awhile. 

Here's a green cherry still on the tree with a beetle hole. 

This is what I want to see, heathy green cherries. No holes. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I'm Good At Growing Ugly Food

I've discovered that I'm quite good at growing ugly food. When I first started gardening, I was depressed to see what I was producing. I was a failure, so I believed. I couldn't even grow a radish right! So many ugly carrots. So many misshapened peppers. Weird green beans. Curled snow peas. Funny looking potatoes. What was wrong with me? 

My only experience with veggies was what I saw in the supermarkets. They looked so pretty and perfect. So what was wrong with my garden? 


Nobody told me that what ends up in the supermarkets is the cream of the crop, only a percentage of what is grown out in the fields. A lot of what Mother Nature produces is misshapened. All that ugly stuff ends up being processed into soups, prepared foods, etc. Once it's cut up or puréed, you don't know that it had been ugly. 

Why are my veggies ugly? Lots of reasons that I've discovered, and probably many more that I haven't figured out yet.....

...insects. Aphids, stink bugs, flea beetles, caterpillars, and more can damage veggies as they grow. Sometimes the "stung" veggies are still edible but odd shaped or have a spot that needs to be cut off. 
...too much nitrogen fertilizer. Carrots can get pretty "hairy" looking if I've used too much manure or compost. They are perfectly edible, just need to be peeled. 
...irregular watering. It took me a while to discover why my potatoes sometimes turned out knobby. And cucumbers develop into odd shapes when there isn't enough water in the soil. 
...the variety I choose to grow. Not all tomatoes are perfect round globes. I tried growing many old heirlooms and came up with some pretty odd looking fruits.
...rocky soil. Root crops can grow really weird shaped in rocky soil. Try growing sweet potatoes some day in heavily rocky ground. Interesting. 
...too much water at the wrong time. Root crops split, tomatoes split, even bananas split with too much rain. 
...infertile soil. Ugly carrots, turnips, beets, and more. They're really not something I want to eat because they're not only puny, they are fibrous too. 
...unbalanced soil. If the pH is way out of wack or if a particular nutrient is off kilter, ugly veggies can result. Not only ugly, but often not pleasant to eat. 
...sometimes they just grow that way. I've gotten carrots with three tops. Green peppers with funny looking knobs growing out the side. Two bananas fused together. 
...incomplete pollination. This happens quite noticeably with cucumbers and corn with some strange looking results.
...over crowding. I often tried to grow carrots, beets, and many other veggies too closely in the bed. I ended up with plenty of skinny, misshappen, non-edible fibrous root things that surely weren't what I would find in the supermarket. 
...disease. While pests are fairly easy to see and figure out, I find that diseases are more difficult for me to identify. Some I've gotten good at, such as root knot nematode (a "bad microscopic worm" that makes the roots knotty looking). Others are harder for me to figure out. But some of my misshaped veggies result from various diseases. 
...too much sun. Some veggies get sunburned and form ugly burnt spots. 
...windburn. The wind can whip tender vegetables against a stone or stem, resulting in surface scars. Still perfectly edible but scarred. 
...physical trapping. I've had cukes, tomatoes, and squash get caught up against a trellis while growing, resulting in a weird shaped fruit. 
...debris build up. This happens with bananas quite easily. The leaves from the nearby ohia trees fall and get caught in the banana bunches. If left there, the leaves cause the banana peels to scar and discolor.

I no longer care if my veggies are ugly. It's the nutritional value that's number one in my book now. I use the pretty vegetables for trading and selling. The ugly ones go onto my own dinner table. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dengue Fever

This is in response to the scads of concerned emails and texts I've been getting....

News -- Dengue  fever outbreak on Big Island. Yup. It's a disease spread by mosquitos. It is not endemic to Hawaii, but tourists sometimes bring it in. It can be a nasty disease although often people show very little symptoms or get just mild flu-like cases. There is no cure. You have to let Mother Nature take its course and hope for the best. Some symptoms can be eased with medical intervention. Some cannot. Sometimes things get worse and patients die. Pretty scary. By the way, it's also known as breakbone disease. Oooooo, that sounds bad. 

Dengue fever is spread by mosquitos. During most years, mosquitos in Hawaii are not bad and are fairly easy to keep down in numbers. But this past year has been unusually wet and warm, resulting in a huge population explosion of mosquitos. Bad news. It was only a matter of time before an infected tourist brought dengue fever to Hawaii's mosquitos. Well now it's here and it's serious. 

There have been 27 test confirmed cases so far in this most recent outbreak. People early on in this outbreak were not lab tested, so the actual number of cases is of course higher. Positive cases have been reported around the island. Yes, residents in my area have tested positive. But cases have occurred earlier during this year prior to the current scare. It's just that now there is a whole bunch rather than isolated cases. 
Not all cases are local residents. Many are tourists who brought the disease with them. That means that they were infected at their homes, not Hawaii. So the figures in the above map are a tad misleading. Also, people move around here a lot, not just the tourists. Residents themselves will visit popular beaches, get bitten, then go home to come down sick a few days later. So it's really difficult to say where the hotspots really are. 

I have ramped up my mosquito control efforts here on the homestead. I have placed additional mini-ponds around the property perimeter to act as egg laying traps. These have been either treated with a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae or have mosquito eating fish residing in them. I am also using the bacteria granules to treat standing water in bromeliads. I notice that banana trunks and taro hold small pools of water but I have never found mosquito larvae in these. But I watch. Regretfully I cannot reach all areas of small standing water, but I'm treating those that I find. Rain gutters, catchment tanks, and non-fish stocked ponds are also being treated. Anything that catches water (and is not being treated) is being emptied when found. Livestock water tanks either have fish or are treated. 

The main sticking point is other people. Not everyone is diligent about eliminating stagnant water. Nor do they appreciate someone else doing the job for them. 

Using personal mosquito repellant is another step that can be taken. Or using those burning mosquito repellant coils. The effective stuff has safety questions, but when I'm faced with the choice of dengue fever or questionable gick, I'll use the gick. Most of the stuff that people consider safe and non-toxic simply doesn't work well enough to be safe against dengue fever. So bring on the deet! 

The local government is hosting informational meetings about dengue fever. Once I attend one, I'll have better information. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chickens -- Suddenly No Eggs

I recently got an email from Duffy about a problem that he's suddenly seeing with his chickens. He moved them from a small coop beside his house into a large open sheep pasture about 800' back. The problem? No eggs.

Duffy did make a roofed over open walled structure to house the feed & water dishes, 6 nest boxes, and some roosts. The chickens have been eating and drinking there, but not using the roosts. And most importantly, not laying eggs in the boxes. So what is going on, I was asked? 

Based upon my own long list of mistakes, I could come up with a number of possible explanations. And keep in mind that there could be more than one thing going on at the same time, in fact, several.

...the sudden change in living quarters. Hens lay better with familiar surroundings. Changes often are greeted with a slowdown of eggs. Once when I moved my hens to a new pen that was only a couple of feet away from the old pen, some hens stopped daily laying. I had other hens never missed a day, but a few that took up to a month or more before laying again. And I learned that the time of year has a bearing. One fall I acquired a bunch of new hens. They promptly stopped laying until the next laying cycle started in January. 
...change in diet. If the hens are use to a particular feed, then any sudden changes can result in no eggs. It's a very common problem that's happened to many new hen keepers. Hens like routine, including diet. equipment. When I switched from watering bowls to water nipples, several of the hens reacted as though I installed a dangerous monster into their livingquarters. No eggs for a couple of days. colored new equipment. This didn't happen to me, but another hen keeper decided to get new feed bowls and waterers. He had done it before using black equipment with no problem. But the time he bought all new red equipment, the hens were skeptical and stopped laying for a couple of days. additions. Adding new flock members can disrupt the whole flock and routines.
...something significantly changed outside. The time I put up a Costco shed adjacent to the chicken pen resulted in low egg production for a week. 
...change in daily routine. Duffy told me that he now feeds the chickens, where before his girlfriend did it. Also, he now feeds them about 8 a.m. whereas his girlfriend put out food at 6. A change in routine like this could very well be contributing to no egg production. 
...change in lifestyle has disturbed my own hens. Duffy has changed his chickens from confinement to free range. That's a major mental leap for a chicken. When my own birds went from all day confinement in a coop/pen situation to afternoon freedom to forage, the egg laying pattern changed. 

If I had to guess, I'd say that the two most likely reason for suddenly no eggs in Duffy's situation are :
1) Hidden nests. His hens have not used the new nest boxes even once. Thus they appear not to be aware of them. My hunch is that they are laying their eggs in hidden nests out around the pasture somewhere. 
2) Egg predators. Egg eaters are common in Mother Nature. Even here in Hawaii we have egg stealing critters -- mongooses, rats, people, and even the hens themselves. Yes, chickens will eat eggs, a bad habit no hen keeper likes to see. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Heavenly Rainbow

I returned to the homestead today after a drive to Kona to pick up the repaired ATV and do some errands while there. Pulling up to the farm gate, I was awed to see a beautiful rainbow arched above the homestead. Yes, I've come home to heaven! 
I just sat in my truck for ten minutes contemplating my life on the farm. What a contrast to the hectic life our American society expects of us. Having just returned from a full day in Kona, the impressions of "city dwellers" were still fresh in my mind......competitive driving & shopping, no courtesy, little respect, short on patience, in a rush, loudness, insulting behavior and speech, ignoring the beauty and nature around them. Fast food, materialism, status symbol cars, status symbol clothing. 

I gazed over my little farm and smiled. It's surely not pretty enough to be featured in Hobby Farms magazine. Nor something you'd see in Better Homes & Gardens. But it's real life. It's good. It's rough, but not bad. It's full of nature, of growing things and animals, of compost and manure, of flowers and food. It produces not just my food but also other resources. It could sustain me and help sustain my extended ohana. It is a place of peace. It is safe. It is home. 

I'm content to live the life of a homestead farmer. Not an easy life, but surely one I consider a good life. I just hope that I will be able to continue this lifestyle for a while longer. I'm not ready to stop. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Bitten !

I've worked fairly seriously around animals since I was 15. Through the years I've taken my share of hits -- kicks, bites, & knocks. Yup, I've been stepped on, squashed, knocked off my feet, run over, pinched, scratched, thrown through the air, and bitten. That's not including the times I've been peed on, pooped upon, vomited on, spit on, slapped with manure laden tails, etc. I've got more scars than I remember. And I have to admit that 99% of the time it was my own fault. I was doing something wrong. I truely believe that most accidents involving animals are avoidable if the human is smart enough and alert enough. Ha, but that doesn't always happen, does it. 

I'm going to show you what happened when I took my attention off one of my donkeys that I was working with. Oh, everybody thinks a donkey is sooooo cute. Everybody wants to hug and pet them. But I don't let anyone near my donkeys, and for a real good reason. It's a big animal, and big animals can hurt a person in a big way. Most people who are not animal savvy get really upset when they get damaged by an animal, and totally refuse to accept the fact that the injury was their own fault in some way. So I'm not stupid enough to let someone get hurt and then turn around and sue me. Nope. 

When working with my livestock I try to stay totally focused on them. When you least expect it they will take advantage if your attention wanders. Thus after trimming my donkey's feet, I stood still for a moment listening to a new bird song coming from the next pasture. With my eyes gazing afar, the donkey took its revenge. She clamped down on my leg.....hard! You talk about getting focused instantly!!! My immediate fear was that she would try to lift me up and shake me., thus tearing my leg muscles. So I did something clever but also foolish, I shoved my fingers into her mouth and dug it into her tongue. Ok, she instantly released me but I got a finger bitten in the process. Geez, now I hurt in two places. 
From this angle it doesn't look all that impressive. A couple of pinched cuts and a light ring about the size of a hardball showing where the rest of the teeth clamped down. But looking down from the side shows the monster swelling. 
No, my leg isn't normally bowed. All this swelling is what it looked like AFTER I had ice on it for an hour. (Actually I used frozen packs of food which conformed to the leg better.) Without ice I dread to think how bad it would have looked. Yes, that donkey bit down really hard and took a full mouthful of my leg. 

The reason I'm discussing this is not to get sympathy. Frankly, I don't deserve any. Getting bitten was my own fault. But I want wannabe farmers to be aware that live animals are not like plush stuffed toys. Real animals can do real damage, even to experienced owners. Just because you exude love & peace, just because you don't intend to mistreat the animal, that won't protect you. If you believe that it will, then perhaps you should reconsider having livestock because one day you're going to get seriously injured or even killed. If you have  livestock, accept the fact that some day you will get injured in some fashion. It's not a case of IF you will get hurt, but WHEN and HOW you will get hurt. The idea is to keep the injuries small and infrequent.

Donkeys aren't the only farm animal that can hurt ya. Chickens peck and spur you, drawing blood. Ducks pinch and can gouge of piece of flesh out of unprotected arms and legs. Geese can hurt you with their wings, even breaking fingers and arms. Cute little bunnies can bite and scratch deep gouges in you. Cats can scratch and bite. Dogs can too, but they can also maim and kill. Pigs can cut you up bad, mauling you, even killing you. Sheep and goats can gore, ram, break bones. Cattle are even worse and can easily kick, bash, and stomp you into pulp. Horses and donkeys can bite, kick, trample, squash. Plenty of farmers and ranchers have been seriously damaged or killed by their livestock. Even when the animals aren't attacking directly, working with them can result in serious injury when they slip, fall, shy or unintentionally mangle you in some way. Working with animals is not for wusses. 

I'm hoping not to get injured again for the next few years. Yes, I'm hoping to be smarter for a while. 

And if you've noticed, I'm not showing you my finger at the moment. It's got a nasty crush wound. No broken bones and it still works, but it will be nasty for the next week or two. It looks pretty gross. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


"John27onthefarm" suggested via email that I should grow moringa as a cash crop to support my farm. Thanks for the suggestion, but no thank you just the same. I'm always open to kind suggestions, but please don't think I'm a jerk by declining the suggestion. My thoughts on this.............

It always amazes me that people are quick to jump on the next superfood being discovered. Perhaps it's because I'm not a fad oriented person, but I can't help but be leary of the fantastic claims I see. And for some reason (by the way, I think it's really sweet)  my blog readers feel the need to alert me to the latest food that will improve my health, extend my life, cure my aches, fight disease, increase my energy, clean out toxins hiding in my body, cure cancer, lower my cholesterol, lose weight, .....and lastly, improve my sex life. Yeah, it's the sex life thing that's always the clincher!    ;)    A few blog followers suggest that I should quick grow some of them as a business venture. Sorry, but I just can't bring myself to sell snake oil. Not that all fad foods are frauds, but far too many have questionable claims and merit. 

I can't recall which order they came in, but do you remember when these foods were being hyped? green algae powder
...mega vitamin C cider vinegar coffee beans
...goji berries
...acai berries
...hemp seeds
...chia seeds
...wheat grass juice
...cacao nibs
...bee pollen
...lions mane mushrooms
...wheat germ
...apricot kernels 
...maca powder
...nutritional yeast garlic

Nowadays it's...... tea
...dark chocolate
...wild salmon
...coconut oil

I've learned that food fads come and go. Some items in the list actually have merit to one degree or another, while others have proven to have been 100% commercial hype. Getting past the hype, at least most of the foods are just fine, as long as one doesn't expect miracles to happen. 

(Above, even if the health food claims are wrong, at least coconut oil makes veggies taste great.)

Many decades ago I use to collect old patent medicine bottles. Dr. Daniels were my favorites because they were aimed at veterinary medicine. I loved the descriptions on the labels....guaranteed to be good for sprains, weak kidneys, sleeplessness, liver spots, consumption, and of course, "female problems". I guess life hasn't changed much from back in those days. People still want to buy "magic pills". 

Back to John27onthefarm's suggestion. I do plan to grow a bit of moringa and try it for my own use. I'm willing to add locally grown foods to my diet. And the livestock might like it. So I will start out with one or two trees and go from there.