Saturday, May 28, 2016

Farm Plan - Future Pasture Plan

I ask myself, what is the goal for the upcoming year? What is it for the short term? The long term? I've never been into the type of thinking where one has a five year, ten year, twenty five year goal. I'm just not that kind of person. But for the sake of discussing a master farm plan, I've been musing over a long term plan. Oh, this is going to take discipline on my part. I definitely lean towards being spontaneous rather than organized. 

For this year I will be targeting primarily the cross fenced pastures. I expect to remove more of the trashy trees, thus opening up more ground surface to the sun. That's going to mean about 20% to 40% of the current trees will get removed. I'm giving a really rough estimate because each cross pasture is different. What gets removed will be used here on the farm for other projects, such as fencing, furniture, trellises, etc. No waste. Nothing taken to the dump. 

I'm currently working on pasture #2. #1 is the dry pasture, nothing but trees. Thus I'm focusing on the first of the grassy pastures, aiming to increase the grazing. I'm about 1/3 the way through removing trash trees. Plus I've removed the brush and ferns from roughly 25% so far. In that cleared section I just recently seeded oats and assorted forbs, plus planted about 300 of my excess sweet potato cuttings. At the rate in going, I guess I'll have this pasture completed later this year.  That's a wild guess, so we'll see what really happens. 

I'm being wildly optimistic, but I think I'll get all the trashy trees and brush removed from the other cross fenced pastures this year too. But I don't foresee me getting the other pastures established in new grazing before the end of the year. That would be a lot of work to accomplish, since I have other projects that I'm also working on. 

What's my short term goal that's beyond just this year? Get all the cross fenced pastures up to speed in producing plenty of grazing. Then as the amount of grazing increases, expand the size of the sheep flock. I would love to see more lambs being born here on the farm. 

Long term goal? I'd like to thin out the trashy trees from the back wooded area, then get some pasture grasses going. But I plan to leave plenty of trees back there. I might add more food production trees.... avocados, citrus, bananas. The back woodsy area would be the buffer against drought years, hopefully giving me enough grazing so that I won't need to buy much in the way of hay cubes.

Next discussion : Fodder

Friday, May 27, 2016

Farm Plan - Current Pastures

Essentially I have three areas devoted to pastures for a total of about 15 acres. That includes the furthest back woods, the cross fenced pastures, and parts of the front area up by the road. 
This is how those back pastures are currently fenced (the wooded area and the cross fenced pastures)...... 

The black straight lines are the fences. The little "x" marks are the gates. So you can see that the large back area has no cross fencing. It's almost all heavy woods with no grazing. The only grass is on the perimeter road surrounding the woods. For right now it will stay unused woods. There are a many food trees in there where I harvest the avocados, guavas, bananas, and citrus, but that's about it. Around four times a year I let the livestock into this area in order to graze down the grass in the road. But essentially the area is a wildlife zone with light grazing. 

The cross fenced pastures are used for the donkey and the flock of sheep. It is moderately wooded with pasture between the trees. Some areas produce more available grazing than others. When I first fenced this area it was heavily treed with very little edible grazing, exactly like the back wooded acres. Over the years I've gradually opened it up and planted grasses and forbs. These pastures are still in the process of being developed. They are barely producing enough to support my small flock. One of the pens is a dry paddock (nothing but trees, no grazing) where the livestock get put when the rest of the pastures need a break from grazing. This prevents the sheep from over grazing and thus killing the pastures, but it does mean that I have to feed them hay cubes when in the dry paddock. 

The rest of the pasture is on the front of the farm near the road. There is perimeter fencing along the property line, but otherwise I use portable fencing or tie-outs. This area originality was partially treed and covered in head-height weedy growth. It took years to get it under control and productive. The area now produces the most lush and nutritious pasture that I have. I chop some of this every day for the chickens and rabbits. It provides most of their feed. 

The pigs are kept in this area. They have a portable pen made of cattle panels. I guess you could call it a pig tractor. Since chicken tractors and rabbit tractors are all the rage nowadays, why not pigs? Well, I I guess I have to say that I've got a pig tractor. Their pen gets moved just about every day, sometimes multiple times a day, depending upon how much grass they are eating. While I could fence in a permanent pig pasture, they are doing just fine with the pig tractor. Don't worry, they get out daily to run around and stretch their legs.... and literally run they do! If you've never seen a pig frolic and run full speed ahead, let me tell you that they can really boggy! Zoom! Anyway, by using the pig tractor system gives them fresh pasture every day, which makes up a good portion of their diet. 

Did I mention using tie-outs? Yes I did. Certain animals are grazed using tie-outs, such as Bucky the goat. Bucky's job is to clean up areas that I can't mow. Because of his ability to easily jump standard farm fences and his penchant for mowing the gardens down, he stays tied. (He has cleared 5' high fences!)  But he gets moved to a new spot daily, often 3 times day. So he's never lacking fresh browse.

Some of the sheep also get out on tie-outs whenever there's a need for some weed clearing, or if the cross fenced pastures need a a rest. They prefer eating green grass to eating dry hay cubes. E-Ram and Stacy are veterans on a rope. They're both smart enough never to get tangled up. That's the problem with a tie-out. The rope can get tangled around brush or wound up around a leg or foot. That's a serious problem if not corrected soon enough. So tie-outs have a significant drawback and I don't recommend for most animals. The owner has to be very diligent when using them. All my sheep have learned to be on a tie-out as babies, but it's usually just E-Ram and Stacy who get tied because they are the most sensible sheep in the flock. The others get a chance to be tied only if I plan to be present. 

I also use portable electric fencing at times. When all back pastures need a rest I will set up the electric fencing out front. I can make any sized and shaped temporary pen for the donkey and sheep. They know about the electric fence and respect it up to a point. But they can bust through when they set their minds to it. By the way, that helluva goat Bucky knows all about electric fencing too well, and shows no respect for it. That smarty pants has learned how to rip loose the fence strands using his horns and ground out the system. Then off he goes on his merry way --- straight to the nearest veggie garden! Ba-ba-bad goat! 

Ok now, I've talked about the current conditions. This is how far I've progressed since I started with the raw land. I've gone from zero pasture to several acres. The front acres are lush with good variety. They support the chickens, pigs, rabbits, goat, and occasionally the sheep. The cross fenced pastures are useable but not producing enough grazing. 

How did I get to the current conditions? I erected fences, miles of them. I weedwacked and cleared  brush and trees from front of the farm, encouraging grasses to grow. I hired an excavator to cut a perimeter around the back pasture area, primarily so that I could erect fencing. But the road comes in very handy. In the cross fenced area I thinned out the trees, removing misshapen, damaged, and weedy trees. I removed inedible brush. I am currently in the process of removing the inedible ferns and planting edible vegetation. 

Next discussion : the future plans for the pastures

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Farm Master Plan

Since posting a picture of the rough layout of the farm, several people asked me for more details and about my master plan for the farm. I bet they all must read Leigh's blog too, since Leigh just recently chatted about her master farm plan. 

My farm plan is not based on some magazine or book. Originally way back when we first bought the land, it actually was but reality quickly set in and I discarded those initial plans. Frankly, a lot of the stuff I've seen published turned out not to be applicable to my land or climate. Good thing I chucked out those ideas early on. Otherwise I might have denuded my land of trees, gotten committed to spending lots of money, and still have ended up with something that didn't work very well for us. 

So....... My farm plan is now based upon my observations of the sun, wind, water, shade, trees, and taking into consideration the hills & dips, and ergonomics of the whole thing. So is my farm laid out perfectly? Nope. I started out using a plan I saw in some book then changed horses mid stream. So the farm still shows signs of that early aborted attempt. Gradually the remnants of the original plan may morph or perhaps disappear over time, but for right now the glitches are still visible. They don't annoy me though. I view them as future projects for making changes and twerking the plan. 

Since the farm is 20 acres, I'll break it into segments in order to talk about it. Things I'll talk about will be the pastures, the orchard trees, the food gardens, the fodder gardens, the water system, the livestock plan. I'll talk about what I've completed so far and what the future plan is. 

In fairly busy right now, so I won't be getting through this farm dissertation quickly. But if you bear with me and you'll end up with a pretty good picture of my homestead farm. Keep in mind that nothing is set in stone. I tend to meander with ideas and projects, and I love to start new experiments at the drop of a hat. Gosh, if one can't play while going through life, what's the sense of living? I did the drop dead serious stuff in my previous career. Now it's time to enjoy life. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

On The Level

Down by the community garden site, we erected a shade tarp arrangement to use as a lunch area for the garden volunteers. Nice shade. Decent windbreak. Keeps the rain off. The only problem was that the ground sloped badly, and it was the most level spot available outside of the garden itself. No place else to put it. For months we've been putting up with sitting on a slant and holding into your plate of food so that it didn't roll of the table. After much procrastination I finally did something about it. 

Regretfully I didn't take before photos. Nope, one afternoon I just dived into working on it, totally forgetting about the camera. Oh well. So you'll have to use your imagination and see the lunch area under the tarp tent and envision the salt shaker rolling of the edge of the table. 

I started out by using some recycled 2x6 boards to frame out the area that needed leveling. The back 6 foot or so was level enough, so I dig the 2x6s into the ground where it started to slope and leveled them from that point on. Once I got them fairly level, I then started filling in the low area with fill. Chunks of sod that I ripped up while getting the rocks. Rocks. Lots of rocks. I had no problem finding rocks, for sure, but getting them there took time. Trip after trip with the wheelbarrow, moving rocks. 

Crusty, the farm dog, started out being my faithful companion escorting me on each wheelbarrow trip. But after the first dozen trips each day, he got bored. He decided he could best supervise by finding a comfy spot under the tent to lay down and watch. He's lucky I didn't throw a harness in him and make him pull the cart. Lucky for him I had no harness! 

Back to the job..... For the first layers of rock I dragged over all the biggest rocks I could find. That actually filed the hole in pretty fast although it was a lot of work to haul some of those big babies over. Ah, good exercise. 

After the majority of the fill was in I switched to using smaller rocks, then smaller still. When I started adding the smallest rocks I laid a board across the width of the space, resting it atop the 2x6s. That way I could level out the surface without having big dips or stones sticking up too high. The photo above shows that the area with the smaller stones (towards Crusty) is getting nicely filed in and level, while the front area is still quite coarse and needs lots of small fill (photo below). 

It took many hours over the course of several days to fill it all in. Hauling and placing rocks was not only work and tiring, it was something far worse.... it was boring. I'd rather be exhausted every day than bored one. 

Once I got a section level, I tamped it down using a metal tamper. It really helped settle the rocks into place and pointed out any rocks that weren't stable. Once well pounded, I used lots of tree chipping to cover the whole area. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I also filed in with rocks to slope the sides.  In the next photos, in almost done. I still have the front slope to fill in and a bit of the sides.

Once I finishedvwith the tree chippings, I replaced the carpeting. 

I think out turned out just fine, if I do say so myself. Once the garden volunteers arrive, the tables, chairs, and storage cabinets will go back in. Things will be ready for lunch once again! Then over the next few days I'll finish sloping the sides. 

Now before everyone tells me so, yes it could have been so much faster by pouring a concrete slab. Or by building a framework and covering it with plywood. Or hiring somebody to do it for me. But that's not what my homestead is all about. It's about using resources supplied by the farm, and doing it myself when I can. The rocks and dirt were here. The tree chippings were here. The carpeting was already here (and it was donated rather than getting thrown away into the dump.) My labor was here, and heaven knows, I might have lost a pound out two in the process (I can only hope). My cash outlay was zero. That's cheaper than paying for concrete, lumber, or labor. So there's a lot of things I can get without spending cash by just being hardheaded, stubborn, and willing to put the time and labor into it. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Coffee Flowering - A Farm Journal Entry

For the past two weeks my coffee trees have been coming into bloom. That's not unexpected because I've been getting quite a bit of rain these past few weeks. I'm seeing plenty of blooms on the trees, making them look like they have a narrow line of snow down their stems. Very pretty. The individual flowers are only an inch across, but they come in clusters, making nice clumps of white. 

On the first trees that started blooming 2-3 weeks ago I'm already seeing teeny baby coffee cherries... Itsy bitsy green bumps smaller than a pea. 

Before I know it I'll be picking coffee again! 

I'm starting to keep records on some of my crops, thus the reason for this post. I'm not much on record keeping. Gee, I keep losing those little notes that I make for myself about the farm. I tried keeping a farm journal but I never could remember to make timely entries. Then I'd misplace the journal, never to be seen again for weeks. So I'm resorting to using the blog for some of the record keeping. Hope you don't mind. ..........I guess it's just tough luck if you do. :) 

So here I am... coffee trees in bloom. The earliest trees started two weeks ago. The slower trees are in bloom now. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Farm Layout

Curious people have been asking me what my farm layout looks like. 

This is a rough drawing. It's 20 acres, more or less. And it's a simple rectangle. As you can see, it's far longer than it is wide. The residential area is nicely off the road, giving us a bit of privacy. The house sits not quite centrally located in the front 2/3 of the farm where most of the actual farming work goes on. The back 1/3 is heavily wooded. 

The amount of land devoted to residential use is 1/4 to 1/2 acre. I've never measured it exactly. That leaves 19 1/2+ acres for farm use. Most of that is pasture of one type or another. The back 1/3 that is wooded gets used for light grazing, but it's quite poor quality pasture. It's an area I haven't done any improvement on yet. 

The land has some interesting features. It's not entirely flat. The front section (major garden area, orchard, etc) is a flat pahoehoe lava field topped with soil. To go from this area to the residential area and secret garden, the driveway climbs up an a-a lava flow. The house is perched on the edge of the a-a flow overlooking the dry riverbed and pahoehoe lava field below. These lava flows are old enough that everything is topped with soil and are well treed. Everything is green. Going back the property from the house, the land gently undulates until you get to the woods on the back 1/3. There you find a pretty ravine cutting to the center of those woods. It would be a neat location for a second house. Imagine sitting on your lanai overlooking a tropical ravine full of lush growth with blooming gingers, fern trees, bananas, and red ohia trees. Is that a dinosaur I see poking it's head up behind that fern tree? It's so lovely and tropical back there that I could easily imagine being in another era. 

So that's it. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Multiplier Onions Goodbye

For a while I've been fussing with multiple onions, trying to learn to grow them well enough to harvest a crop. While they have been growing for me in Hawaii, it hasn't been without its issues. 

First issue ..... Black aphids. These aphids seem to prefer these onions over any others that I have. I've tried several methods to control the aphids and have failed miserably. While I've been able to assert some control of this pest with the other onions (by harvesting early and rotating the beds), these multiples onions don't respond well to being transplanted every couple months and moved to a different location. Plus they produce (it's normal) a brown skin along the outside of the shank, which seems to be an excellent hiding spot for the aphids. The brown skin makes physically removing the aphids close to impossible. The onions quickly succumb to the aphid infestation. 

(Above, rotted onions I removed today from the bed.) 

Second major problem.....rot. The past 2 years has been very wet. While my regular onions seem to tolerate the extra rain ok, these multiplier onions do not. When a month is on the dry side, these onions perk up and grow really well and fast. But give them two weeks of rain and they start rotting. I think that if I were serious about wanting to grow them here, I'd have to put a plastic tunnel over them to keep the excess wet away from their roots.

Since regular onions grow well on my farm, I'm losing interest in these multiplier onions. Not the right variety for my location. Too much effort and attention needed to get a crop as compared to other onions. There is little advantage to my growing them since I can grow regular onions year around, they grow better and produce thicker, juicy, better tasting onions. While multiplier onions don't require propagation from seed (the propagate by division of the clump), I could produce my own onion seed if need be. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Adding a New Variety of Bean

I'm growing a new variety of bean, new that is to me. I've never tried this variety before. The name is "Trofeo". It's a green filet bean. Obviously it's a bush type, as you can see in the photo below. 

This bean has been growing robustly. And it has stood up well despite all the rain I've been getting recently. No signs of mold or mildew yet. And I'm impressed about how heavily it is flowering. 

The bushes are putting out lots of flowers. Looks like I'll get getting lots of beans from this one. 

As a side note, this garden bean is where I experienced a heavy infestation of flea beetles last year. The bean plants last year were severely stunted and damaged, as were the beets and potatoes in this same bed. So for almost a year I planted items that flea beetles wouldn't attack. Now I tried beans once again. Happily, no flea beetles yet in sight. Not that the farm is devoid of the little buggers. I have them on a patch of sweet potatoes in a different section of the farm. Thus I have future attacks of flea beetles to look forward to. Dang. But at least by giving this garden bed a rest from flea beetle "food" for a year, I was able to get rid of them long enough to produce a new crop of beans. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Blasting Garden Pests

A while ago a friend sent me a news article about using water to spray bugs off of plants. Since then, I've read a few more news articles relating to this topic. Two of them I thought had bits of interest applicable to my homestead. 
1- In low tech areas, workers will daily walk through a field using a stick or wisp to knock/chase pests from the plants. Sometimes a flock of chickens, ducks, or geese are herded through a field to eat insects and weeds, keeping them moving to avoid them damaging the crop. 
2- In home garden situations, the gardener will wisp the plants twice a day to remove insects. 
3- Gardeners can use a powerful spray from a hose to remove aphids and other pests from plants. (I've done this myself to remove aphids, mealybug, and ants from my mother's hibiscus plants.) 
4- Commercial organic farmers are mounting sprayers on their equipment so that crops can be sprayed to remove pests while their equipment passes through a field doing some other task, such as cultivating. 
(Above, a critter in going to enjoy blasting! Grasshoppers! The only problem is that they will hop back, of course. But it will still feel so good blasting them. )

I got to thinking how I could use the idea of pest removal via a jet of water in my own situation. Problems :
...I don't have high water pressure via my water hoses. Besides, I normally need to conserve water since I'm not hooked in to municipal water. 
...big commercial sprayers with their big tanks and pumps are expensive, plus require a hydraulic PTO to operate the pump. 
I'm trying to stay low tech, so I started thinking about other solutions. 

First of all, simply wisping my plants twice a day is really low tech. That's appealing. While it wouldn't work for quite a few of the pests in my area, it might help with some. So I'm trying to get into the habit of wisping plants as I walk by them for other reasons. Just a gently wisping to dislodge stinkbugs, grasshoppers, and such. I notice that just running my hand over the bean plants causes some stinkbugs to drop to the ground. So that's a definite plus. The less time they are on the plants, the less time they are feeding, finding mates, causing damage. Plus I squish any that I see drop to the ground. Ah ha, less bugs! 

Second....and this is what I'm experimenting with right now.....finding a way to water blast the bugs off. Since my pathetic hose pressure isn't up to the task, plus the problem that most of my garden areas are not within the reach of a hose, I need another solution. Some sort of sprayer, for sure. 

Some of the issues to consider with a sprayer. 
...Most handheld sprayers don't hold much water. So it would need to be big enough to do an entire bed without having to reload. 
...Hand spritzed ones fatigue my hands really quickly. Therefore I'd want one that could be pumped up for pressure. 
...My gardens are mostly not near an electricity source. A sprayer needing electricity is out. 
...Large sprayers requiring a motorized pump would need to be mounted on a trailer/cart that my ATV could pull. While this is an option, it's not one I'm ready to take yet. Plus many of my garden beds are not ATV accessible. 
...Some sprayers cannot have the spray adjusted to a sharp stream. Thus the nozzle needs to be adjustable. 
...Water is heavy! About 8 lbs per gallon. So weight will be a consideration. Do I plan to hand hold the sprayer? Or tote it with me? Or mount it on wheels? Or use a cart? Things to decide upon. 

I have several small pump-up sprayers already in the farm. The first one I tried is this little, simple one.

 It only holds a quart and a half of water, so it will only be useful where I am close to water for refilling. Adjusting the nozzle to stream and pumping it up to a good pressure, I gave it a try. Yup, it blasted the aphids right off the plants. I didn't have any other pests in the garden I was at to test it on, but it seemed strong enough to blast anything away. One other note -- this sprayer is cheap and easy to use. I could afford several and place them at strategic locations, thus always having one ready and on hand when I needed it. That's an asset. 

I next tried larger sprayes that hold more water.  I found the one gallon sprayer in the barn. Gee, when did I buy that? I haven't a clue! But it is light enough to easily carry. I also have a 2 gallon sprayer. It's a bit heavier when full, but still easy enough to tote around. I tried both, and they did a good job, were easy enough to use, and had enough water to spray several garden beds. 

I also have a well used Solo backpack sprayer. It holds two gallons, but being a backpack unit, it's easier to haul around. Being able to walk around plants and jump from aisle to aisle is better than dragging a two gallon sprayer behind me. So this backpack sprayer suits me pretty well. Perhaps this may become my favorite sprayer. Time will tell. 

Larger sprayers, which I don't currently own, are an option. But the negatives would be expense to but them & difficulty hauling them around. I have to ask, do I really need to haul that large a volume of water? I don't think so. 

So for right now I'm going to stick with these little pump sprayers and the backpack sprayer. I plan to start using them regularly and see what comes of it. Will they really make a difference with the bug control? Will I tend to use one type sprayer more so than another? Give me a couple of weeks to toy with them and I'll report back. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mulch and New Ground

An experiment............ How much effect would a high nitrogen mulch have on pipinola compared to a low nitrogen mulch? 

Answer .......... A significant difference. 

A few months ago I planted pipinola in an unimproved, shady area that I call "The Valley". It's part of the dry riverbed (once upon a time water flowed here when it rained uphill) that bisects my property. I planted pipinolas fairly evenly spaced over a good section of the area. I guess I put in about three dozen all told. The soil was totally untouched. Rocks were not removed. No soil amendments were applied prior to planting. But the area had been aggressively weedwacked once a month for three months in arow, so most of the weeds were pretty much gone from the real shady areas. 

Over the course of the next few weeks it rained here several times a week, getting the ground fairly moist. It gave the pipinolas a good start with most of them sprouting, though some rotted. I then decided to apply a light mulch, about 1" thick, to help preserve that soil moisture. I would have preferred a 2"-3" thick mulch but I didn't have enough material for that. But I did have some fresh chicken pen litter, so I used it on one section until it ran out. For the rest of the area, I used forest leaf litter. 

Now several months later, I can see a big difference in the pipinola plants. The area that got the chicken pen litter has larger leaves, plenty of vines, and long runners already. The plants have filled out the area, covering the ground. (photo below)

The areas where I used forest leaf litter is quite different. The leaf litter worked to keep the ground moist and the weeds at bay. But the pipinola plants were decidedly not as robust. Yes, they were green and growing. But they had far fewer vines, smaller leaves, and there was lots of ground showing between the vines. (photo below)

Below, you can see that the two areas at side by side. The conditions are almost equal....except for the type of mulch. 

I like the results of this experiment for a few reasons. First, it shows that a good mulch can be quite effective. Not the answer to trump all other answers for starting a garden, but an effective way to start improving soil in a new growing area. 

Second, it shows that fresh chicken manure, used sparingly,  can be successfully used. The emphasis would be on "sparingly". I've always been told that chicken manure had to be composted or aged before using. discussion allowed. Fresh, it would burn the plants. Ah-ha, that isn't necessarily true. 

Third, it shows that not all soil amendments need to be tilled in to have a beneficial effect. This is important for me, with my rock filled ground. I'm getting more confident that at least some of my starter crops, those where I'm not harvesting roots like with potatoes, can be grown using a high nutrient mulch. I don't know how effective this method would be on other crops, but the pipinolas surely like it. 

As I bring more unused areas into crop growing, I plan to try other high nutrient mulches on various starter crops. What would the results look like using rabbit or horse manure instead of chicken? The chicken litter is based upon grass clippings, so what if I used ground up ferns or leaf litter in place of the grass in the chicken pens? What other starter crops would this method work well with? Sweet potatoes? Taro? Pumpkins? Gourds? Beans? 

Time will tell. Oooooooo lookee, there is plenty of opportunity for more experiments! 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Iowa Cartoonist Fired for Targeting Big Ag CEOs

A sad, sad state of affairs. Fired for what? This.......

For pointing out the truth. For pointing out the lack of reward that our farmers get. For reiterating the unbalance between big corporate business and the small family farm. 

So what's the story.

Farm News accepted Rick Friday's cartoon for publication, as usual for the past 20 years. Yes, it got published. The next day it was yanked off the online magazine. Mr Friday was notified that he had been fired due a complaint received from a seed dealer, whose identity the magazine has kept secret. 

So much for freedom of speech, amendment rights, speaking the truth. 

It's not like Mr Friday's cartoons have never poked fun at anyone or any ag company in the past. Going back through the years of archives, there are plenty of examples of just that. But suddenly the wrong CEO got its nose tweaked, got the truth exposed. Little guy gets squashed. Huuusssh....don't let the little farmers know how they stand in regard to the giant incomes awarded the big Ag CEOs. Ssssshhhh. Don't tell us that the opinion of one giant Corp carries far more weight than thousands and thousands of readers and farmers. Sssh. Don't let the people know. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Outdoor Cats?

As a result of my post about the cat neutering clinics, I have been prompted by several emails to look at the issue of outdoor cats. I received numerous emails about those cats at the neuter clinics. What happens to them after they are neutered? People seemed horrified that the cats live outdoors. They gave all sorts of dire warnings of the dangers faced by outdoors cats. One person was irate that these cats might kill birds. Another was angry that they were to be returned to the wild, believing that euthanasia was a better option (I don't think the cats would agree). For some reason the anti-outdoor cat crazies read my blog. Just to let you know, I trashed all of your angry emails. I only read the polite ones. Your different viewpoint were interesting to read, though I don't agree with much of it. 

Most farms here have farm cats, the proverbial barn cats though we have no barns. Oh, I know farms that are catless, and guess what, they have mice/rat/bird problems. Farms with cats still have vermin problems but not to such a great extent as non-cat farms. 

I've had people email me, saying that for one reason or another, if I were a good cat owner I would keep my cats indoors. I'm told that they....
...can be hit by cars. I live fairly remote, but yes I agree, they could conceivably get hit. 
...could get poisoned, shot, trapped. My remoteness helps protect them, but yes that could possibly happen. 
... could get into cat fights. Agreed. It happens occasionally. 
... could get killed by other animals. Yup, could happen. 
... kill lots of birds. Mine kill a few birds, but not many. They prefer rodents. Thus far they have only killed Japanese White Eyes, doves, plus the occasional saffron finch, none of which are endemic nor endangered. And even so, it's only two or three birds a month. The Hawaiian hawk that hunts on my land kills at least one bird every day! And that's only what I see. Who knows where it hunts elsewhere.

I've been told that it is neglectful to allow my cats outdoors. That it is even cruel and abusive. Not hardly, in my opinion. By the way, why don't you ask my cats? They can come and go as they please. They don't act like they are neglected or unhappy. 

Yes, my cats can freely come and go. They choose their own lifestyle. They can behave like cats, do "cat things". Some hang in or around the house all the time. Others wander the farm. Yet a few others travel to the neighboring farm. And yes, they take their chances. Life isn't safe. Life doesn't have safety guarantees. 

I have purposely chosen to live someplace where my animals have the opportunity to exercise more freedom in their lives. I have lived places in the past where my cats were 100%  house cats for their own safety because the dangers outside were too great. But on this homestead, they are reasonably safe to live the life of a farm cat. 

Contrary to those emails telling, sometimes demanding, me to keep my cats indoors because otherwise I am a terrible animal owner, I do not see myself as a bad, neglectful, cruel owner. I agree that I cannot keep my cats safe 100% of the time, but hey, life is not safe. Not even for me! Besides, my cats have a job. Rodent killers. Is it cruel to expect them to have a job on this farm? I've been told that it is. Oh come on, lets get real. I have to work for a living, and so do they. I enjoy my job, and so do they. Obviously, these animal rights/animal welfare people believe in a welfare system. Not me!!!

I work hard learning and doing homesteading. I don't appreciate some non-farm-working animal lover telling me how I have to run my life. If you don't like the idea of farm cats, that's your right for your own cats. I won't demand that all house cats be allowed outdoors. I won't demand that your cats live as farm cats. 

I do believe in being a responsible animal owner. So my cats get offered nutritious food and water daily, get treated regularly for parasites, get appropriate medical care, have access to shelter, get attention and affection. All my cats are neutered. 

So what about those feral cats at the neuter clinic? They go back to their territories and are released. It's a life that they know and have been successful with to date. Will they face dangers in life? Surely. Will they kill birds? Most likely some will. Is it abuse to allow them to return to their feral life? I don't believe that the cats see it that way. They want to go back home. I have followed numerous of these cats after they have been released. They fatten up, look healthier, become more stable, and seem more content. Not every cat gets to live a success story. But then, life offers no the real world that is. Not all the cats survive. Life is tough for wild/feral animals. And face it, there is no place for these cats to go but back to their territories. All of you who wrote indignant emails, are you open to adopt 100-200 of these cats? Can you find friends willing to take that many too? The facts are that there are thousands of these cats, tens of thousands! Offering them a chance at a better life is the best that realistically can be done. 

As I write this post I have Rikki Tikki sitting on my lap, Diggery asleep on hubby's lap. Toi is resting atop the cat tower. Molly is playing with a mouse toy. The rest of the gang is outside doing whatever it is that they do. Perhaps they will come inside when it's bedtime, or perhaps not. The ferals who also live on this farm are all outdoors because of their fear of humans, but they have access to food, water, and shelter. None of this is abusive. None is neglect. Animal-lovers need to understand and accept this. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Living Rural in Hawaii

"R" asked me what are benefits and detriments of living out in the country, living rural in my location in Hawaii. So here it goes. This is what comes to mind. 

The benefits I get from living rural:

...Elbow room. I don't have to live right up against my neighbor. In the past I've lived in a row home. I also lived in a small one room apartment. Neither experience was pleasant as far as I am concerned. Give me space! 
...Escape from human noise. City life was nothing but human generated noise 24 hours a day. 
...Listening to nature sounds. "Noise" to a city dweller is night time crickets, morning bird song. To a county gal, they're soothing music. 
...Beautiful night skies full of billions of stars and an incredible Milky Way. One just doesn't get to see them when living in a city. Country night skies are amazing. 
...The ability to handpick fresh vegetables just before making dinner. The flavor can't be matched by any supermarket or even farmers market produce. Same goes for the fruits I grow. I just tried freshly picked cauliflower this past month for the first time and it was remarkable. 
...Being able to eat lots of chemical-free food that I've grown myself. I'm so off of chemical foods now that I don't feel all the well when I eat them. A fast food meal would make me feel poorly for hours. 
...Not breathing in vehicle exhaust and chemical laden dust. Ok...ok..ok...I breath in SO2 from the worst polluter in the USA, our erupting volcano. But I'd rather be around this than those weird toxic chemicals found in the cities. I once took a walk around a down big city on a drizzly day. I saw that I had red, splotchy chemical burns on my lower legs afterward. Yikes! 
...The view outside the windows. Flowers. Wildlife. Trees. Scenery. Nature. 
...Clean snow that's really white! As a kid growing up in the city, it took a while to realize that snow didn't naturally have a grey dusting on top. So noticed that I mentioned snow and I'm in Hawaii. Yeah, I don't get snow on my farm, but it does snow atop our mountains. And anyway, I used to live in places where it snowed each winter. 
...#1 for me : living a less stressful life. It's a slower, less complicated lifestyle in the countryside that I've come to prefer. 

The downside of living rural:

...Spotty Internet. I live beyond the area where cable Internet or broadcast signals exist. So it's either satellite, dial up, or cellphone connection Internet. I'm using a cellphone signal, and that tends to come and go. 
...Spotty cellphone coverage. It comes and goes, but at least I get it. 12 years ago I had to run around my driveway looking for that elusive sweet spot so that I could make a quick, very short phone call. It's a tad better now that we have a signal booster. 
...No cable TV in my area. That's just fine with me since I haven't watched TV since moving here, other than the occasional show over at a friend's house. 
...There are certain things that I can't buy without driving 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Things like shoes, socks, underwear. Thankfully there's Amazon Prime. 
...Services are often hours or days away. I can drive 2 hours to get most services and reach the government offices. But the appliance repairman may not be coming to my area for days. I'd just have to wait. In fact, one time my clotheswasher stopped working with a tub full of wet clothes. There was no way I could get the lid open. Those clothes were moldy and beyond saving by the time the repairman arrived. 
...Not much choice in restaurants, doctors, dentists, other service providers.
...Also not much choice of stores, no movie theaters, no live theaters, no night entertainment. 
...No night life. Well, not quite true. Night life is reading a book or browsing the Internet then going to bed by 9.... actually 8 in my case. 
...Roosters crowing and dogs barking, neither of which bothers me anymore. But they took some getting use to.
...More insects. I don't recall seeing much in the way of mosquitos or other insects when living in the city. Of course, insects are just a fact of life in the tropical countryside. I don't get hysterical if I pick up a can of something and discover that a monster sized cockroach was using it as a hiding place. And you know, ants don't taste all that bad afterall. 
...Owning a vehicle is almost mandatory out in the countryside. In cities, one can use buses, taxis, trains, and shuttles. Bicycles and scooters often satisfy some of the transportation need. When I left the city, I had to buy a car and earn more money to pay for maintenance, gasoline, insurance registration, etc. And if I took it to the city, then parking was not only expensive, but often challenging to find. Way out in the country, not having a vehicle simply isn't an option for me. While I'd love to have a horse and buggy, that isn't going to happen around here. 
...Hospital is far away. Around here, a super emergency means a very expensive helicopter ride of which insurance pays very little of the bill. When living real rural, one has to accept that there's no hospital within 20-30 minutes.
...And this is downside that really bugs me --- I'm far away from the agricultural courses and other events. Every event is at minimum of 1 1/2 hour drive away. Then there's that drive home afterward when it's dark and I'm tired. As a result I miss out on just about all of them. It has to be a really good event for me to put the effort out and be willing to pay for an overnight hotel stay and meals, the gas for the truck, and a caretaker to tend to my livestock until I get back home. And while the event may be advertised as being free, it costs me a bundle. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Free Mulch

Today I hit the jackpot. Two big truckloads of tree trimming chippings ------ for FREE dropped off right on the front of the property. Now how great is that! 

When I left to head to town today, I passed the tree trimmers working on my road. With a bit of boldness, I stopped and asked if they needed a place to dump their chippings of the day. "Yes"....what a beautiful sounding answer. So I gave them directions, headed off to town and hoped for the best. 

Didn't get back home until after 5 and I had completely forgotten about the chippings. So it was a pleasant suprise to find two truckloads of ready to use mulch sitting outside the rockwall. Wow, I'm not usually this lucky. In the past everytime I offered a spot for dumping chippings, I was always told that they already had a place lined up. So finally I've won my turn at them. 

Tree trimming chipping make a marvelous mulch. Oh, there's some rather long stuff mixed in, but as a mulch it doesn't matter. I plan to use this on the veggie gardens. I bet I'll use every drop, every chip.