Friday, February 26, 2016

"Are You A Farmer?"

I was a passenger in a small Cessna airplane today, which was taxiing for take off from Kona Airport heading for Maui. As is often the case, the tourist passengers awaiting take off asked one another where they were from and what they were doing next. When I answered that I'm a local, I'm always asked questions. Usually things like what's is like to live in paradise, how expensive is it to live in Hawaii, where's the best restaurant, what's a great activity to do. But the sweet lady behind me asked, "Are you a farmer?" It made pause. Uh, how did she know? Lucky guess? Could it be the stained hands and dirt under the finger nails? Worn clothing and work shoes? Sun exposed skin and baseball cap? I wasn't wearing my Ka'u Farm Girl shirt, so that couldn't have been the giveaway. Nor did I have seed catalogs in my backpack pocket. 

My hands surely show that they engage physical labor. Abused. Scars and cuts. Perpetual dirt under the nails. Puffy joints. Crooked fingers. Complete with sturdy, sensible wristwatch. Definitely not the hands of a lady of leisure. 

It turned out that during her vacation trip the woman had met a few other people from down South Point way and every one had been a farmer of some sort. Ha. So in her view, if a person is from Ka'u, then of course they have to be a farmer.    :)

I often wonder about what impression tourists get of Ka'u. This particular woman had good, all kinds. Ka'u = country. She seemed quite happy to think of Ka'u as rolling farmland full of pleasant farmers. And you know, it pleased me too!.....even though I know it's not quite the paradise that this tourist envisions. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Well, I looks like I'm able to grow wheat here. I had purchased a packet as a trial, just to see what would happen. I planted a few wheat berries here and there, in a variety of places. Full sun. Semi-shade. Light shade. By itself in short rows. And what I think is the most interesting, intermingled with the winter squash. 

What I did was sow the wheat about six feet from the squash plant. Then over time, I allowed the squash vines to run, mingling with the wheat. By the time the vines reached the wheat, the wheat had already grown tall enough to stay above the squash leaves. The thought of being able to produce two crops in the same space is intriguing. 

Early in February all the wheat plants started producing heads. The full sun plants grew the tallest and fullest with the most heads, but all the wheat grew and is now producing. 

Right now I'm not growing enough wheat to do anything with other than to save seed for the next crop. But now that I know that wheat will grow here, I plan to raise it for the livestock. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


The latest kitten to be added to the farm went off this week to the cat spay/neuter clinic with me. If she's gonna hang around this homestead, she's gotta be spayed. So she joined a group of 110 other cats. 

Below, her she is anesthetized, shaved, prepped, and positioned to be spayed. She's next in line. 10 minutes later it's all over. 

Below, she's home a still zonked. Well not completely, but she needs to sleep off her mighty "drunk". She chose to stretch out on a fuzzy blanket. 

By morning, Spot, was back to normal. Eating, playing. Did I say playing? Geez, she's flying around the house, jumping the other cats, grabbing the dog. Post-op instructions say to keep her quiet. That's a joke! 

The reason I'm posting this info is in hopes that others will think about spaying their animals, or help to support free and low cost spay/neuter clinics. Even though I do my share of animal breeding, I'm a firm believer in neutering most cats & dogs. There is no denying that there is a major surplus of cats and dogs in the world. Surplus animals have shitty lives, if they are allowed to live at all. Why perpetuate the misery? I just don't understand people who are so anti-neutering, especially of feral cats and family pets. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Walkin Closet

I've been trying this past week to get some of my various projects completed. I have a whole long list of partially done things and it would feel good to say that a few more are done, over, complete, pau. One of those projects is the walkin closet. 

The ceiling needed to be finished off by trimming out the sides and sheathing the rafters. The most difficult part is the fact of working over one's head. All the boards were painted before being nailed into place, but they're going to need a second coat. Yuk. As you can see in the photos, all the little divets and nail holes have been filled in, so once it is dry and lightly sanded, the final coat of paint will finish it off. 

I chose "Orchard Street" for the color. Warning.....don't go pick paint when you're hungry. The moment I saw the color I thought "orangesicle...yum". So I bought it. Luckily I still liked the color when I painted the wood. 

So the closet is just about done. A final coat of paint and two light fixtures, and pau. Done. Finished. Over. Complete. 

Ok, ok. Not quite done. Yes, I need to install a hanger pole for clothes. And put in some shelving. But I'm going to call it done anyway. It feels so good to tick off another job from my list. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hawaiian Hoary Bat

Come walk with me on my farm, just at dusk when you can still make out the outlines of the trees. Follow me out the house, down the zigzag stairs, down the hill, and across the little pond bridge. Now stand quietly, looking out over the garden area. Wait a bit. Ooooooo, what was that? Big shadow swooping by. A barn owl. Still wait with me. Be still. There. There. Those flitting shadows in the sky. Bats! There be bats here! 

I once impressed a visitor by staring intently at the bats, squinting my eyes, muttering a low hhhhuuummm, aaaahhhh, then announcing that the bats were the endangered Hawaiian hoary bats. Visitor was dully impressed by my ability to identify the bats in the low light. 

Haaaaa. Haaaaaa. I'm so bad. Yup, there is only ONE type of bat in Hawaii. Not a chance of me guessing wrong. Just the Hoary bat. 
(Photo off the web) 

I have at least three bats that regularly work the air over the main garden area. Often I only see one at a time, but I know that there are sometimes three because I've seen all three at the same time, crisscrossing the sky. When the weather is wet, like this past year, I see the bats often. When we get a dry year, I seldom spot a bat. I suppose it depends upon the flying insect population. That's what they're hunting. 
(Photo off the web. The hoary bat is small, easily fitting in your hand. )

I've always liked bats. I've never understood the fear that some people have for them. I've often seen bats while growing up as a kid and always thought they were special. Hey, a flying mouse that can "see" at night. Now how cool is that! Back in NJ I had bats that worked the field behind my house. As a result my house area was practically mosquito-free. My neighbor across the street was envious. Her place had plenty of mosquitos. I didn't know why the bats preferred my side of the street, but I was thankful none the less. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

A New Ginger

I just discovered that I have a new ginger blooming on the farm. Some rhizomes were given to me a while ago and I was under the impression that they were shampoo ginger. But I'm happy to find that they are something altogether different. They're beautiful! 

Just one bloom, but it is really exotic. I don't know what kind of ginger it is, but I can tell you what it's not. Not Kahili. Not red. Not shampoo. Not white. Not yellow. Anyone know what this one is called? 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why A Farmer?

A blog reader asked me why I wanted to be a farmer. She thought farming to be a dirty, smelly, tiring, sweaty, terrible job. She said she'd rather work in a nursing home (which I gather she thought was a most disgusting job) than be a farmer. What could possibly make me want to farm? 

What can I say? How do I explain? Some children grow up loving Others love dolls, make-up, playing house. Yet others are fascinated with sports. Some dream of exploring, hunting, climbing huge mountains. Many nowadays are enthralled by tech stuff, computers, software. 

I was a child who explored the dirt, peeking under rocks, watching worms and insects, collecting tree leaves in an album, walking barefoot in creeks looking for crawdads. Daydreams included imaginary miniature horses and dinosaurs. Yes I wanted a mini triceratops for a pet! But a stegosaurus would have done nicely too. I galloped down wooded paths on my imaginary horse. And I also planted the acorns I found in those woods. I gathered seeds in the fall and secreted them home to try sprouting them. I was fascinated by the tomatoes growing in my mother's garden. They were miracles. 

I was the strange little girl that never wanted dolls, just stuffed animals and plastic animal models. I used allowance money to buy animal figurines down at the 5 & 10 store and packets of flower seeds to plant in my mother's flower beds. I read every horse book in our small library, then moved onto the dog and cat section. I also read what few books they had on gardening. I'd rather read those books than go to a movie or party. 

At 12 years of age I discovered that agricultural high schools existed, my mind raced, my heart leaped! It was the first thing in my life that I desperately wanted with all my soul, mind, and body. To go to agricultural high school, how wonderful. Yes, my entire self screamed "Farming"! But alas, it was not to be. 

I was not a delicate girl. I didn't like wearing dresses. I never liked make up. Frilly things didn't appeal. But I was shy and obedient, thus played the part of the beloved little daughter when I had to. But being outdoors, running and working was what I wanted. At 15 I landed my dream job....working at a veterinary hospital. It changed my life forever. 

Why did I get drawn to farming and animals? I can't explain the passion. Yes, passion. That's what it is. There is no explanation or reason. It's just how I was made. It was like a smoldering ember inside the small child burst into intense flame in the teenager. And I became the flame keeper for the rest of my life. 

I tried living the lifestyle of modern society......keeping up with the Joneses, living for the paycheck, climbing the social ladder, minding my public image, rubbing shoulders with the right people, wearing the fashions when necessary, attending the parties, building my material items collection, keeping house (oh, how I absolutely hated keeping house!). I wasn't good at it. Actually, I sucked, was a failure. I just can't make the connection or see the importance of it all. A suppose 75% of today's society just doesn't have appeal for me. I just simply can't connect. I'm surely an oddball.  

I've always dreamed of farm stuff. My bucket list included a tractor, a rototiller, growing food, feeding people, having a greenhouse, growing flowers, raising animals, keeping livestock, have a farm. I love the feel of rich soil running through my fingers, the feel of grass on my barefeet, a spring breeze on my face. I get high on the smell of fresh mown hay, horses, flowers, autumn leaves, a tree ripened peach. The sight of germinating peas, bees working a flower, a newborn lamb make my heart sing. I find work with animals and gardens to be incredibly rewarding. I don't mind sweating, getting dirty, physical hard labor. I actually feel healthier when I'm working. 

It's been a long journey. I'm now a farmer.....a small homestead farmer. Some of us are lucky enough to chase our dream, let our passion run free, embrace our life's desire. I'm a very lucky person because after a long time living my life steered by the opinions of others, I have at last chosen to become myself. 

Why am I a farmer? Just because. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Secret Garden Rock Wall Update

Back last June I started working on what I called my secret garden. Around it on two sides I had made a fence out of tree poles. Then I began bringing excess rocks to create a low rock wall within the pole fence. 

Over the months I've gradually moved rocks that I "harvested" from other garden, digging holes in the orchard for more trees, opening up new spots for gardens. 

So here's an update on the progress. As of June 2015 I had about 10' completed on the rock wall and another 20' partially done.

Now I'm up to a bit over 100' either completed are almost completed. There is still quite a bit to go. My goal is not to make a rockwall, but to have a pretty to look at rock storage area. As a plus it defines the perimeter for the secret garden. So there's really no hurry to finish this wall. But it's a great place to store my extra rocks! 

Why do I like to think of this as rock storage, rather than a rock wall? That way if I really need rocks in a hurry for some project, I won't feel guilty stealing them from this wall. Just a mind game, but it will keep me happy if I end up stealing rocks from it now and again. 

By the way, the wall currently us being made about 18" thick at the base, 12" at the top. Once the length of the wall is completed, I could simply add rocks to the back wall, making the wall thicker. A way to use those excess rocks I accumulate. 

This photos, above and below, are quite shady and difficult to make out, but you should be able to see that the wall is over 100' long as of today. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Walkin Closet is Moving Along

Another little baby step accomplished. The cedar ceiling between the rafters is up. In the photo it looks to be a different color from the walls, but it isn't. I guess it's just the way the light is. This part was easy and quick. All the cedar was cut the same length, and working with an air gun is a breeze. Gee, I love an air nail gun. 

Next step -- sheath the rafters, then trim out the ceiling area. Sheathing requires a bit more expertise and precise cuts. Not my strong point, for sure. But David is an expert in it. David can make the finished project look really nice. I'm the rough in guy, he's the detail man. I'm the runner & go-for, he's the fine builder. What a team.    ;)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Herbicide Carryover

I've been using some imported grass hay to feed my sheep when I'm away from home for a few days. For security and safety reasons, they go into the secure inner dry lot for the duration. The hay looks absolutely gorgeous....too gorgeous. It made me a bit suspicious. I'm wondering if a broadleaf herbicide has been used on the hay field. Some of those herbicides, notably Grazon, persist in the hay. What's worse, it also passes in the animals' manure and can persist for 2-3 years in the soil or manure. If it gets near my garden, the soil is unusable for food production for years. 

So I can do two things to protect my gardens. 
1) don't use a grass hay. Use only alfalfa. 
2) test the hay for Grazon contamination. 
3) stop using the manure (this ain't gonna happen!)

I found that using alfalfa hay for the sheep to be a problem. Even with feeders, the sheep tend to waste a lot of hay. At $40 a bale, losing half is a serious loss. Since sheep need long fibers, using pellets is not a healthy option. I tried cubes for the sheep once, but had two develop choke on it. So long stemmed hay it is. 

When I use grass hay, the sheep usually have very little to no waste. Much more economical. But there's the danger of Grazon. I get around the danger by testing each bale of hay. It takes a couple of weeks but I believe it's worth it. It just means that I have to store the hay a few  weeks before using it, waiting for the test results. 

How I test: 

In an area where I wouldn't care about Grazon contamination....actually the edge of my driveway.... I fill at least 6 pots with soil. Each pot is then seeded with 6 bean seeds. 

(Above, I'm going to use these sprouting bean plants that I planted for a germination test.)

Next, I fill half of a 5 gallon bucket or two with the hay to be tested.

Then I  fill the bucket with water, and allow it to soak overnight (I don't fish out the hay but let it stay there until all the water is used up, then make another bucketful).

The hay floats to the top, so I push it down a couple of times to mix it well with the water.

The water turns brown, but that's ok. I now use this test water to water 3 of the pots. I use clean water to water the other 3 pots. And I take care to keep the 3 and 3 pots separate so that any water draining from the test 3 cannot reach the non-test 3. Now it's a case of waiting for the beans to grow. Over the next 3-4 weeks I'll observe the bean plants. If there is leaf curling or stunting in the 3 test pots and normal plants in the 3 non-test pots, then the hay is contaminated. If all the pots are normal, then the hay is safe to use. 

So far I've had clean hay. No Grazon. Great! But I can't assume that will continue to be the case. The farmers are probably using a herbacide, but at least it isn't residual. And since I can't guarantee that the hay is coming from the same source every time, I need to test every bale of hay. 

What would I do if the hay proved positive for Grazon? I surely would not throw it away. That hay represents a chunk of money. I would feed the hay to the sheep but only in the dry lot paddock where the donkey/horse could not access the hay nor the little grass that grows in that paddock. I do use the equine manure in the gardens and wish to keep it free of Grazon. I would just be mindful not to harvest any sheep manure. 

I would also register a complaint with the feed store. That may not make a difference, but possibly it would. Buying organic certified hay is another option, but a very expensive one I don't wish to do. And heck, I don't even know if organic hay is available on the island. I can't see much of a demand for it here. 

So what herbacides do I need to watch out for? 
  • Picloram - sold as Tordon, Access, Surmount, Grazon, and Pathway.
  • Clopyralid - sold as Curtail, Confront, Clopyr AG, Lontrel, Stinger, Millennium Ultra, Millenium Ultra Plus, Reclaim, Redeem, Transline.
  • Aminopyralid - sold as Milestone, Forefront, Pharaoh, Banish
If I accidently contaminated a garden area, I could still grow things in the grass family. Corn. Wheat. Barley. Rice. Probably sorghum, too. I'd just have to wait 2-3 years for the contamination to dissipate in order to grow broadleaf veggies, which by the way, is just about everything else. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lamb Gets A Name

I was amazed that I got over 50 name suggestions for the new lambakin. Everybody had some good suggestions. Tis a shame I don't happen to have 50 ram lambs right now that need naming. 

I finally decided upon Dodge Ram. I know, I know. It's a crazy name. But I'll be calling him Dodger.

So little Dodger it is. By the way, he is doing fine. Stacy brings him to me every morning, and although he's leery of me he watches me brush his mom and feed her treats. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Isolation Cages

Now that I'm growing seed, I'll be growing some of it from time to time on the homestead farm. When that's the case, I'll sometimes need to cage the plants in order to keep them from cross pollinating. Of course, that depends upon which veggies I'm growing for seed. Some cross pollinate, some don't. Plus, there are other ways to prevent cross pollination. 

Isolation cages. I'm making a few cages for beans. I have a few bean varieties that do exceptionally well on my farm. So I might as well take advantage of that and grow them here. This I'm experimenting with isolation cages so that the bees don't cause cross pollination. Beans are primarily self pollinating. But foraging bees have been known to transport pollen from one bean variety to another. Therefore my isolation cages are being designed to exclude my honeybees. 

I'm figuring in making the cages 3' by 3' square, and 2' in height. I want them easy to put up, take down, and store away. Plus I want them made as inexpensively as feasible, recycling materials when possible. So my first step was to gather up assorted used lumber, cut it down into 1/2" by 1/2" widths, 3' and 2' lengths. To stabilize the frames, I used a 45° brace in each corner. 

Once the frames were made, I decided to cover them with clear lightweight plastic. I have a roll of plastic sheeting that had been given to me. Perfect for the job. 

I attached the plastic to the wood frame using a staple gun and home scrounged material in place of batten tape. I could have purchased a roll of batten tape, but hey.....I already had some bands that came off hay bales and some lengths of discarded electric fence tape. 

Here's a closer look-see on how I stapled the plastic on by running the "batten tape" over the plastic sheeting, then stapling it to the wood. This method prevents the plastic from pulling through the staple. 

How to quickly erect the cage? first thought was to tap a nail in at the corners, then tie the frames together with a bit of string. I'm not entirely happy with this arrangement, but it will do for now. 

At the bottom of the frames, instead of tying them together, a well placed rock or stake does the trick. 

So now I have a cage with four sides. So far, so good. But now it needs a top. A plastic top will not work. The cage would get too hot inside. So I'm opting for screening which will let the heat out and the rain in. I have been collecting and saving old discarded screening for some time now, so I have a good supply. So I cut a few pieces into 3'6" squares. 

Now how to attach the screening? Remember, I want easy on/easy off, so staple gunning it to the frames won't do. I came up with the idea of using clothes pins. Quick and easy. 

Ta-da! Completed isolation cages. Very quick to erect and take down. Let sun in, rain in, heat out, and keep bees out. 

This is my first test run using these cages. So we shall see how they work. Will they prove effective in keeping bees out? I'm predicting that they will. Will they get too hot inside? If so, I could always use screening on one or more sides. Will they fall down if it gets breezy? Perhaps. Then I'd need to make them fit together in a sturdier fashion. 

I'm still not thrilled about those nails. I need to think of a better, simple solution. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Seed Farm Update

I've been quiet on the blog during the month of January simply because I've run out of free time. The time I've normally spent blogging and reading has been usurped by my first income generating project. Not that I intend to switch over to a life of all work and no relaxation. Naw. I just got enthused and hooked on starting this new project. Now that the first baby step is underway, I need to slow down and be less intense. I noticed that I was gradually slipping back into the rat race lifestyle. Whoa........."slow down, you move too fast, ..." Yeah, I gotta make my mornings last.       :)

In order to have a micro seed retail business, I need seed to sell. I plan to sell only my own farm produced seed. Thus I've been setting up seed grow boxes down on the seed farm to grow them. In fact, I've hammered together 32 new boxes and am working on filling them up with compostable debris. I got the boxes made in just 4 days, but filling them will take a weeks. So far I've got 6 filled and seeded with beans, plus another 11 in the process of being filled. Now that I'm seeing the first boxes germinating, the frantic need to fill boxes seems to have lessened somewhat. My senses seem to be returning to me, rather than being over consumed with my new ideas. So time to back off, smell the roses, enjoy the sunsets. Ah, time to remember why I moved here. 

So far I've lined up 28 bean varieties to grow. Some snap beans, dry soup types, cowpeas, limas. And so far 9 pea varieties that I really like. A few shelling types but mostly snaps and snows. Next I'll take a  look over the radishes and decide which to grow. Now that I've got things rolling, I'm thinking that adding just one or two grow boxes a week would be just fine. No, I need to back off let's say just one a week for now and see how that goes. 

No photos yet of the seed farm progress, but I'll get to it some day. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Update - Walkin Closet

Yesterday there was a major stride in the building of the walk-in closet. The floor got installed!  

I had recently made a trip into town and stopped at Home Depot to pick up the flooring. I opted for the TrafficMaster snap together flooring. I had tried that brand in our hallway and it is holding up just fine. Although the store salesperson tried to steer me towards a snap together laminated wood flooring, I knew better than to go with that sort of product. While it might be "nicer" in many people's mind, laminate wood flooring is a disaster for my area. It is far too moist here. The floor quickly cups and is ruined. 

(Very pretty grain pattern. This one is "oak".)

Anyway, the floor is now down. Wahoo! Once I get the next load of cedar tongue & groove, the ceiling and trim will get completed. Then it's time to sheath the rafters and trim them. Ah-ha. Done. Well, except for installing the ceiling lights. Then it's time to make shelving and move in. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Woodcrafting Tables

I haven't tried making my own furniture yet, but I'd gonna give it a try. Every since elementary school refused to allow me into wood shop (I had to take home economics where I learned to make placemats, potholders, and aprons, yuck), I've wanted to work with wood, make useful things. But I never learned the basics as a kid, and only now am trying to figure it out. 

I recently acquired two slabs of monkey pod from a dead tree. That's a variety that grows in my area. Monkey pod has very pretty grain. least that's my opinion. These two slabs are about 2 1/2 to 3 inches thick. One is about 18 inches on its widest diameter, the other about 36". 

This bigger one has two holes in it. While others may see this as a defect, I count it as an asset. It will give the tabletop some character. Tables, yes. That's what I have in mind. 

First step is to rough sand it. The initial sanding is with #50 sandpaper and a belt sander. There are a lot of gouges from the saw, so it will take a bit of sanding. 

So after the initial sanding, this is what they look like...........

So far, I'm pretty pleased. Now I'll sand them using a finer grit, #80 paper. 

I think the grain is oh so pretty. Plus I plan on leaving the bark on and let it be rough. I still haven't figured out what sort of finish to use. Hope I decide well and don't ruin them. But we shall see what happens. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Chickens -- Calcium

I've been asked to comment in what I use as a source of calcium for my chickens. How could a self sufficient/reliant farm supply this need? 

First, I don't believe that 100% of every resource has to come from the exact acreage of a self sufficient farm. As long as the farm can source the item locally  without undue expense, I believe that is enough. Local sourced, rather than shipped in from outside the region, sits fine with me.

Calcium. Most folks in the USA use ground oyster shells or ground limestone. They simply buy it at the feed store. I could do the same, but why should I? Locally I have a free source of calcium.....coral sand. 

On top of it, the sand is slightly salty from the ocean water. So it becomes a source of salt and trace ocean minerals too. 

I put the sand, right from the beach, into a small bucket which is fastened to the fence so that the birds don't knock it over. I purposely use a small mouthed container so that the hens don't climb in and kick the sand all about. The girls don't eat lots of sand, but over the course of time, they gradually eat away at it. 

My hens also eat small bones in their cooked slop & glop, mice when they can catch them, small birds (a type of dove) when they catch one, plus plenty of green leafy stuff like kale, spinach, and such. So all things considered and since their eggs have strong shells, I think they get enough calcium. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Flowers in My Salad

Personally I like the idea of growing edible flowers. Sure it's a part of self sufficiency, but it like the beauty of them in my food. Hubby is just the opposite. They are not something he ate as a child, so he sees no need to start eating them as a adult. Oh well, his loss, my gain. 

Above is a bowl of mixed greens topped with lovely nasturtiums. I end up eating all the flowers. Can't even sneak one colorful tidbit passed hubby. Sigh. 

It may surprise you that I never ate a flower until I came to Hawaii. Like hubby, I had the opinion that I never ate them before and I wasn't starting. But getting into my self sufficiency project, I opened my mind to possibilities. Flowers are openly acceptable now. How pretty!