Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lima Beans - My First Attempt

Ever get excited trying to grow something new? Here's my newest crop attempt....pole Lima beans. I'm growing a variety that I've never seen in a seed catalog. I obtained the seeds locally from another gardener. The beans are white with black markings. Black, not dark maroon. And when they are cooked, they make a black pot broth. Interesting. Different. 

I poked the seeds along the inside of the Rockwell that runs along the street. A wire fence runs along and above the wall to keep Crusty the farm dog from jumping the wall, and it makes a great trellis. 

It didn't take all that long before the plants sent out multiple vines. I don't know if this is typical for all pole limas, but this one is making very bushy plants with scads of runners. The runners want to climb straight up, but I'm training them to weave back and forth horizontally in order to utilize the trellis space with the plants early growth. 

So this is how they look today. The few plants (10) have filled in the trellis with my back and forth weaving. I'm now working on weaving the top foot of the trellis. After that I guess I'll run some horizontal wires from pole to pole for the vines to climb up onto. 

I'd say that this variety is aggressive. Wow. Is this typical for pole limas? 

Monday, June 27, 2016


Rain. Rain, more rain. I'm sick of it. But it surely has been loved by the fungi growing around here. I decided to take a farm walkabout and see what sort of fungi are visible.

Above, this little oddity is about 1 1/2 inches high jutting out if the forest litter. It looks like a red star flower atop a white stalk. Pretty and weird. 

Above....walking among the fern regrow th in the secret garden, I accidentally came across a patch of wood chips with little red dots all over them. Tiny and very red. I wonder what sort of fungus this one is. 

Above, I came upon patches of bright yellow dog vomit fungus. So colorful, it's hard to miss. Wow, it just screams at ya. I came across three patches of the stuff growing on decomposing cardboard. 

Above.....Mushrooms abound. Big. Small. White. Brown. Robust. Fragile. These are just two photos, but I saw lots of littler mushrooms all around. 

Above..... Shelf fungus was easy to find along old rotting logs. I haven't seen this variety before. Most of the shelf fungus is the type that looks like a turkey tail fanned out. 

Above...... So what's this stuff? I'm guessing it's a fungus of some sort. I found this growing on my back porch steps. 

And lastly, this bright yellow stuff is growing between the layers of wet cardboard. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Lilikoi In Bloom Right Now

This morning I stepped out the front door into beautiful sunshine, a rare occurrence lately in this very wet month of June. Taking the time to enjoy the view, I looked up a spied a beautiful flower on the passion fruit vine (called lilikoi here). Whoa, the vine must have been flowering for the past week or more and I didn't notice. There's even tiny infant fruits away up high in the vine. Fantastic. 

I've never noticed how long it takes the fruits to mature from the time the vine flowers, so this time I'm making a note of it. I'm curious to see just how long it takes. Does anyone know or have a guess? 

I am noticing that most of the flowers aren't resulting in fruits. Is that normal? I don't know because I never closely monitored the lilikoi vines before. But since most of the flowers are not setting fruit, I'm assuming that they are insect pollinated. I've never noticed birds or bats visiting the blooms. 

Well, looks like I'm no expert when it comes to lilikoi. I do know that it loves to climb trees. It's easy to grow at my location. That it produces fruits seasonally. And that I love the flavor. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Farm Plan - The Finale

Plans are all well and good, if one has a crystal ball that predicts the future. But the future is not guaranteed, so a plan is only a hopeful plan. Sort of like the difference between theory and fact......plan vs reality. 

I'm not one who has historically been good at adhering to a plan. ...like the time I went on vacation to hike the English moors and ended up hopping the ferry to France. Trip plan out the window on a whim. Ha! That's me!  

So I've revealed my master plan to you all, but please don't hold me to it. Perhaps fate may interfere with the plan, or perhaps I may toss the whole thing out the window and do something else. Hey I'm a girl, and I think I heard someone say that a girl can change her mind.    😉

Seriously though, I believe it's good to have some sort of plan in the works. Maybe it will be modified along the way, but it gives me an idea of what direction I'm suppose to be going in. 

By the way, I'm open to suggestions. Just recently someone posted a suggestion of growing moringa for livestock fodder. It's a great suggestion, so I'm incorporating the idea into the farm plan. I'm going to add several more trees to the farm in the next few weeks. 

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of thinking about a farm master plan. So let's go off to other topics. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Farm Plan - Future With Water

"C" asked me why do I have to rely upon the rain? First, I live in a rural area where the government doesn't provide water to everybody. That means, no "city water" on this farm. On the road I live on, the county water department will not run water lines to my farm. If I wanted county water, they would install a water meter one mile away down the road. This means that I would have to buy and install a mile of my own water pipe (a mile's worth ain't cheap), plus go to the expense of trenching it in and restoring the ground surface to the county's satisfaction. PLUS purchase and install a booster pump to bring the water up to the farm. And pay for the county to install a water meter. Who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars that would cost me. But believe me, I have no intention of finding out. The county can keep their water. 

Another thing to consider......Once I would hook into county water, then I'd have the expense of having to maintain my own water system, pay an electric bill to run the booster pump, pay to maintain that pump, and pay a monthly water bill on top of it all. Not a good deal any way I look at it. 

"P" voiced concern about the farm running out of water during a drought. Yup, could happen. But there are steps that can be taken. First I could do things to reduce water use, such as using deep mulches, going to drip irrigation, growing some crops in non circulating hydroponics, creating wicking beds. For livestock, instead of open water troughs, they could learn to use water nipples. And finally, I could simply haul more water myself or buy a water tanker full and have it delivered. There are water delivery services here that make buying delivered water easy. 

"E" wrote to say that it sounded like I had the water system in place, so what would I be doing in the future? Well actually there are a few water related projects that I have planned.......
1- install a hose system to distribute the greywater easier to different areas. Right now there are only 3 spots that get greywater. I plan to create a better system so that the greywater can be sent to numerous more sites where it is needed. 
2- make a system to divert the overflow water from the residential catchment tank to the agricultural water tank down in the field. Currently the overflow runs into the woods. It could be better utilized by using it to replenish the ag tank. 
3- create more water storage in locations adjacent to food crops. When it comes to a strong drought year, I'd like to see the available water be easily utilized by the food gardens. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Farm Plan - Water

Without water, there is no farm. 

Happily I'm in an area that historically gets enough rain on average. Some years are quite wet (like now!) Some years are quite droughty. The wet vs dry is cyclic, so surviving one versus the other is not all that difficult. It's just a matter of waiting for the next year. 

This farm relies upon rainwater. There are no streams. There is a inactive dry river bed cutting across the farm that in the past carried excess rainwater during heavy rain storms. It was not a continuous stream. But bulldozing up the mountainside has diverted the water. ☹️ There are no natural ponds nor bogs here either. The majority of the farm lies atop an old a-a lava flow, so that excess rain rapidly drains down into the lava. A few acres lies atop a pahoehoe flow which has numerous small lava tubes below it. Again, heavy rain rapidly drains away in most places but there are spots where drainage is slow or delayed. Thus the farm does not create its own ponds. The only visual evidence of rain runoff is in the driveway. Therefore swales to capture rain runoff would be on no use on this land. 

Rainwater is harvested via roof tops and directed to large storage tanks called catchment tanks. Roof tops include the house, barn, various sheds and livestock shelters. The farm had three large, round, corrugated steel tanks capable of holding a total of 23,000 gallons. Additional water is stored in numerous small man-made ponds, one larger 16' round diameter 3' deep (4500 gallons), and the others varying from 25 gallons to 150 gallons. These smaller ponds are for mosquito control. 

During droughts, my current water storage is not sufficient. So I haul water by the half ton load twice a week. That's not a lot of water, but if I do it continuously, it's enough to get the farm through the drought years. I just don't put off hauling water until the tanks gets low. It would be too late then to make a difference. So I haul year around whenever the tanks are less than full. And since I pass by the water spigots several times a week anyway, it's not a hassle getting water. 

Another source of water for farm use is reusing the greywater. My take is.....why drain greywater into a hole in the ground when water is so precious a resource? Greywater is diverted to orchard trees and some fodder crops. Bananas and pipinolas thrive on the constant water. By not allowing the ground to become waterlogged and by adding  manure & mulch from time to time, I have no odor problems when using the greywater. 

I don't try to store greywater. Storing it mean that it would need to be treated in some fashion. Even if it just means dribbling it through a series of plant filled ponds, I don't have the set up for it. Aaaaaaah, perhaps a future project. So currently I just run it directly to the plants that I am targeting. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Farm Plan - Food Future

Since this discussion is about the farm plan for food, expanding food production is the paramount goal. But it includes not just food for us, but food for others and feed for livestock. 

As far as human food goes, the plan primarily calls for producing surplus to sell for farm income. A second focus is on changing our own diet expectations.....truly learning to enjoy "real food" all the time rather than slipping in commercially prepared foods. In regard to this second goal, we do allow ourselves to splurge on the weekends, which helps a lot. Total "bad food" deprivation doesn't work for us. If we get none, then we crave it even worse. Thus right now we are not 100% food independent although in a crisis we could be. And possibly in the near future we will be. So part of the future food plan calls for us to work on this issue. 

Producing surplus........ the main goal of the homestead farm plan. Consistently producing surplus would open the door to being able to support our livestock independent of commercial feeds. Surplus would also give our bartering more flexibility, the problem being that currently I often don't have what others are looking for. Surplus would also mean that I could attend local farmers markets and convert that excess into cash. Face it, no matter how independent a homestead wants to be, there is still the need for cash for taxes, insurances, medical costs, tools, some fuels, repairs and maintenance, and expansion costs. Not everybody wishes to barter the items and services that I need to acquire. 

What sort of surpluses do I have in mind for the future? 

Increase edible pastures. 

Learn to produce grains for on farm use. 

Increase salable fruits and vegetables. 

Produce resale items : plant starts, seeds, compost, mulching material. While these are not food items directly, they indirectly result in food. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Farm Plan - Food Situation Today

Farm = Food

So let's talk about farm food. Yeah....I'm for it. I'll vote for food any day! Ha! 

One of my primary goals in becoming a farmer was to grow our own food. Thus I focused on homestead style farming. One very big lesson I learned early on is that's it's not so easy to grow one's food. How do I grow hotdogs, soda, spaghetti......pizza? Our old style breakfast was white toast with butter, omelet with cheese and onion, bacon or ham, coffee with milk. At other times it was bagels and donuts. Lunch was often a hoagie with potato chips, and soda. Dinner could be just about anything.......but not those things found growing in a garden. Not being able to find seeds to grow donuts, beefaroni, macaroni & cheese, canned soup and canned everything else, I knew that our diet was going to need a bit of adjusting. 

Next lesson.....I didn't know how to grow things. In the beginning I made more mistakes than anything else, had more flops than successes. And to make things even more discouraging, the veggies that I could grow with some success were ones that we didn't particularly like to eat. Radishes were pretty easy.....we hated radishes. Turnips and kale were easy too......we ate neither. Most other things I tried growing turned out pathetic and often were inedible. Carrots were fibrous. Spinach bolted. Lettuce full of slugs. Something ruined the cabbage and broccoli. Maggots were in the tomatoes.  Sometimes crops barely even grew. 

Fast forward a couple years.......

The farm now produces most of our food, either by directly producing it or by trading the excess with other growers. And I now have a foraging system down pat, providing us with some goodies for our own table while filling many a bucket with livestock fodder. 

So how did this happen? First, we learned to eat real food. We weaned ourselves away from processed foods and things that we couldn't make for ourselves. And I did it via baby steps, trying one little thing at a time. It took close to ten years before I could say that we could produce all our own food if we had to. We don't, by choice, in that we splurge with some store bought items. Plus we eat out with friends 2 to 3 times a week. But we are at a point that we could be totally self sufficient in the food department if we really had to. 

The farm produces a wide selection of veggies year around. Plus fruits too. Many things are seasonal, so I do freeze or dry certain things for future use. And farm excess gets sold or traded for things that we don't produce. The farm hosts chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, and pigs. Feral turkeys, pheasants, and doves abound. No shortage of protein here. 

Food gardens exist throughout the farm, though the vast majority are within an easy walk of the house. There are garden beds that people would quickly recognize as being gardens. But most little gardens are tucked away everywhere and along margins, such as the driveway, along rock walls, fencelines, forest borders, etc. Visitors tend to see flower gardens, where actually they are veggie gardens with flowers mixed in. Ground covers are veggies -- sweet potato, pipinola, radishes, beets, etc. 

Question : Why is everything scattered all over the place? Example - why aren't the potatoes all in one spot? 
Answer: Pests & disease. Second answer:  no need to bulldoze the acreage flat, removing all the trees and interesting natural land contours. 
In the tropics, diseases and pests can be devastating. By scattering a crop in garden beds around the farm, I have successfully avoided totally losing entire crops due to problems. While one or two areas might get wiped out by say, flea beetles, other areas successfully produce food because the bugs haven't found them. 

Now, everything I've said sounds so rosie and successful. Sounds like I really have a good handle in things. ........NOT!    When it comes to a completely home produced diet, I'm not totally there yet. As with so many of us trying to be food independent, I have major falls from time to time. I'm an ex junk food junky. I was raised on the stuff. Lunch during elementary school was bologna and butter sandwich on white bread. Cookies, pies, cakes, and ice cream were considered routine desserts. I knew the Campbell soup jingle by heart. Same for beefaroni. Doritos, chips, and cheese puffs were my happy foods. Coke was my standard drink. So it is not surprising that to this day I sometimes find myself frantically searching the home cupboard for something edible, cursing the silly farmer who loaded the pantry with dried fruits and veggies, stuffed the freezer with healthy soups and meats, and filled the frig with homemade cheese and garden vegetables. Grrrr. Where's the sugar, salt, fat, chemicals, food dyes, and most importantly...chocolate? 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Farm Plan - Forest Future

Do I have future plans in regard to there forest? Well, I plan to keep a woods on the farm. That's for certain. Being a homestead style farm, the trees are an important asset. 

I plan to keep the woods predominately ohia trees. There's a couple endemic varieties that have been pointed out to me, so they will be encouraged to stay too. While there are several feral guavas in the pastures, I plan to add more to those pasture areas that are lacking them. Both the donkey and the sheep enjoy the fruits. There's a few citrus trees in the pastures too and I plan to add more. Again, the livestock eagerly clean up the fruits. 

The one grove of strawberry guavas that I have will be slightly expanded. I use the poles for a variety of tasks and could use more. So I will encourage their spread to another 100' x 100' area. But I will restrict them to that one section. They tend to spread and fill in pretty densely if left to their own devices. So it's a tree that needs to be managed. One added asset of these trees is that they create a visual block between us and the neighboring property. I value the privacy factor. 

The mature eucalyptus on the farm will gradually be eliminated. They have proven to be too dangerous during windstorm. But I will encourage young trees to continue to grow here, which will be harvested when they attain "pole size". Because mature eucalyptus live all around us in the neighborhood, I will continue to see new seedlings growing each year. I won't need to keep my own giant "mother" tree. 

As needed for projects, select trees will be harvested for fence posts, pole building, and crafting. Young trees will be encouraged to replace those that were harvested. I don't need much in the way of firewood, so wind blown branches and twigs, plus trash trees will satisfy my firewood needs. 

The trees around the residential area will stay. They block the storm winds. They will be trimmed from the to time to remove weak limbs or branches stretching toward the roof. The only tall trees allowed near the buildings will be ohia because they do fine in the storms. Problem trees, such as jacaranda, mango, albizia, and eucalyptus, have already been removed from around the residential area. We've already seen problems with these trees shedding limbs or crashing down. 

I don't foresee the future need to remove sections of woods in order to open more areas for vegetable planting. What I have now should suffice. And while I plan to improve the pastures, massive tree removal will not be required for that. If the secret garden area gets expanded, the big trees will still remain with only the smaller or trashy trees pruned out. 

So it is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-got when it comes to the forest here. Just some tweaking -- some trees removed, some trees added. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Farm Plan -.The Forest

"G" asked about my plans for a forest...... for firewood and lumber specifically . The woods that I already have are providing me with plenty of firewood and crafting wood. I've already used my own ohia poles for building structures, fence posts, and furniture. Strawberry guavas for trellis poles. Bamboo for poles, stakes, and crafting. Eucalyptus for forest steps, garden borders, fence poles. But for general structural lumber? No. First, I don't have a mill. Second, I don't wish to cut down lots of my larger trees. Perhaps if I had 20+ acres of forest then I'd be looking into producing some lumber, but my woods is less than 10 acres. On top of it, that 10 acres does double duty by providing some grazing, fodder, food foraging, and supporting numerous "forest margin" food trees. 

The current status is about 10 acres of mixed sized trees that are primarily ohia with some endemic tree varieties mixed in. Plus a few food trees scattered among them....guava, citrus, avocados, mulberry. When I acquired this land there were tree varieties that I considered noxious and have since eliminated -- Christmasberry and albizia. Plus there were dozens and dozens of eucalyptus trees that are now out of here because of the windstorm that occurred a year and a half ago. And there are still dozens awaiting removal when I can get to them. 

A cool "tree" that I discovered on the back reaches of the farm is the tree fern. I was delighted to see that I had a few. I've since managed to propagate enough to double their numbers. Coming from NJ, I find these tree ferns to be fascinating and almost magical. Noting like them back on the eastcoast.

Since starting this homestead project, I've purposely added numerous various food trees. Mostly they have been planted nearer the residential zone of the farm, not in the far back woods. But there are citrus, avocados, and bananas even way back there. 

The plan calls for keeping trees on this farm. When I first arrived here, I thought I would be clearing the land and creating a picture book farm. Wow, it would have been a major mistake! A homestead needs trees. Food trees. Firewood trees. Craftwood trees. Shade trees. Windbreaks trees. Wildlife trees. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Farm Plan - Orchard Future

There's lots of future opportunities for food trees here on the farm. The main difficulty is in digging the holes for them. Not easy doing it by hand! I admit that I really copped out when it comes to this. I paid David to dig me about lots of holes all around the place. Yeah, I wussed out. 

I would really like to expand my fruit tree inventory. Gradually I'm adding the ones that I think would be interesting. 

In the plans are: 
Sapote - I'm not sure which kinds yet. Hey, why not one of each? Sounds good to me.
Tangerines - I love tangerines and hope to add several.
Lime - Tahitian lime for sure, and maybe a few others.
Bananas - I'm looking for varieties I don't already have.
Soursop - I don't know if it will grow here but I'd like to try it.
Cherimoya - will give it a try. 
Jackfruit - for sure. I don't know if it will produce in my life time here, but it's a good fruit and I'd like to add it for the future farm owners.
Grapefruit- pink. For some reason, pink ones are more appealing to me. Haven't a clue why.
Pomelo - I've had a few that were really good, so I plan to track down those varieties for the farm. 

I'm open to getting other trees, but I don't know which others. Breadfruit won't produce here, so I have been told. I don't know about longon, lychee, or rambutan. And there are plenty of other food trees I'd like to look into, including:
Tree tomato
Custard apple
Kaffir lime

And in eager to add some more of my current residents-- 
Macadamia nuts
Sweet guavas

If you visited here, you wouldn't notice most of my fruit trees. I have no rectangular orchard filled with trees lined up in a row. No need. I don't use a tractor to tend my trees. Some trees grandly line the driveway (well, some day they'll look grand once they get bigger). And they line the edges of the woods. I still have plenty of room for more trees. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Farm Plan - The Orchard

Before writing this I had to do a walk about to inventory what I actually have here in the homestead. Truthfully I didn't know. 

Current inventory list:
Hawaiian lemon
Feral lemons 
Bananas -various varieties
Gauva-1 sweet pink, 1 sweet white, dozens of feral sour types, and numerous strawberry guavas 
Papaya - numerous feral types
Grapefruit (white)
Surinam cherry 
Mango (it doesn't produce mangos)
Macadamia nut 

Down at the seed farm there are mangos, breadfruit, and papayas. 

In hindsight I should have spent more time establishing a food orchard, but alas, hindsight is 20/20. But I'm getting fruits from some of the trees already. I believe my joy is in the establishing of this food forest rather than in the harvesting of great amount of fruits right now. So I'm satisfied. But if I were to give advice for others starting out, I'd suggest getting those fruit trees planted the first year rather than waiting. 

Most of the trees are established well enough to be producing now. But of course the newly planted trees need to grow more before I can expect harvests. The peaches are new, this past year. The coconut is 12 years old but it won't produce for a long time yet, if it ever produces in my lifetime. This is not a good location for coconuts. Two of the avocados are still young. So are dozens of coffee trees. 

I tried growing cacoa trees but failed twice. I have no experience growing these and I'm not even sure if they would survive in my location. But after two failures I've decided to turn my attention to other trees. Perhaps someday I'll try again. I also killed the mangosteen sapling. My story is the same as for the cacao. Wrong location? Lack of grower's knowledge? 

Having come from NJ, I'm pretty stoked to be picking lemons, bananas, and oranges from my very own trees. How cool is that! I pick up my own macnuts. Gather my own avocados. I never dreamed I'd be doing that. 20 years ago I didn't even know what a mango, guava, or papaya was. Never heard of macadamia nuts. Never knew where allspice, cloves, or cinnamon came from. And now I grow my own. Weeeeeeee! 

Photo Loading Problems

seem to be having a problem with uploading my photos. So until I can figure this out I'll be posting without photos. Sorry. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Farm Plan - Livestock Future

(I'm having a problem loading photos, so they'll have to appear later.)

What does the future hold for the livestock here? Well of course some will end up being the guest of honor at somebody's dinner table, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm mean, will more livestock be added? Will some be eliminated?  Will breeding programs be instituted? Will their purpose on the farm change?

Current future farm plan............

I'm finding that 50 is a number that the farm can comfortably sustain. But I'll gradually cut back to around 25-30 as time goes by because less birds would be easier to care for as I get older.

Right now replacement chicks are being purchased from the mainland. So I'd like to see more brooding being done right here on the farm in order to raise my own replacement birds. 

Another change I'd like to make is to eliminate the need for commercial chicken mash. Presently I use the mash to soak up the cooking juices when I make the chicken food. Once I am growing grains, I could use that juice to cook the grains in, thus soaking it up into the grains themselves. 

So the goal will be to gradually cutback on the number of resident hens, aiming for a number that is easy for me to tend go as time goes along. Since the number one reason for them being on the farm is for fertilizer, I don't foresee totally eliminating chickens until such time that I opt to stop farming. 

Above, one of my two bucks........Frosty. 

Status quo. I am presently happy with the level of rabbit activity on the farm. The only change I'm anticipating is eliminating the buying of commercial grains once I'm growing my own. 

As with the chickens, their primary purpose is to produce fertilizer. And because of their easy care requirements, I foresee them being a part of the homestead up until the time I retire from farming. 

The only significant change I see coming is that their grain ration will be produced right here on the farm. Presently I buy mash for them. 

Above, a friend bottle feeding one of the new lambs. 

I'd like to see more sheep. More lambs. Adding more would result in only a minimum of added expense, but would increase pasture fertility and farm income significantly. In order to add more, I need to increase the productivity of the pastures. I'm taking the first steps now. I need to open up the pastures by removing brush, inedible ferns, and trashy trees. More edible grazing needs to be introduced and grown. More shelters need building so that each pasture had its own shelter and water trough. A rain catchment system needs to be created to harvest rain water for those water troughs. New stock needs to be acquired, sheep that fit into my husbandry method, meaning hair sheep hardy enough to be parasite resistant and thrive without grain supplements. 

Once my homegrown grains are successful, I plan to eliminate the commercial sweet c.o.b. that I'm now purchasing. 

Above.....too many piglets! 

While I've very much enjoyed raising the pigs, I don't foresee me continuing to have pigs on a regular basis. I have no desire to breed them, in that full grown pigs are too much of a handful for me. But raising a piglet to 4-5 months of age is something that I can handle. I might be able to do this for a few more years, but I realize that there will come a time when pigs no longer have a place on this farm. Will it be next year, 5 years from now? I don't know, but the time will come.

Status quo. Not looking to add anymore donkeys, nor eliminate this one. She has proven to be suitable farm resident that I can handle. 

Baaaaaad Bucky the goat. Not a milker and full of trouble, he's still a valuable asset to the farm as a brush eater. 

The future might see a couple of Nigerian milking does added to the farm. Perhaps it's just a dream, but I wouldn't be adverse to having a couple of little milkers. Several decade ago I once had alpine dairy goats, so I'm aware of what I'd be in for. But I still would enjoy have a couple of little dairy goats around. 

The farm could use another muscovy duck or two, or three, or four, but females only. I'm not interested in hosting a drake. I'm not currently searching for ducks, but when some come available I'm willing to add a few. 

I hope to add more tilapia. A future project will be to breed them. Since the homestead farm is too cool for active breeding, I'm looking into creating a set up down at my seed farm. Much warmer there. I currently know very little about breeding tilapia, so I have a lot to learn. 

Learning to be a better beekeeper is definitely in the plan. I still have lots and lots to learn. If I can get better at it, I'd like to add numI'm open to the possibility of adding a Border Collie pup. Plus in a few years, three of the farm guard dogs will be elderly. So I'm also willing to welcome another dog or two for farm protection purposes once the seniors pass on. 

Above, two of my chicken eating holligans that need to be penned when I'm not home. They're both getting elderly but haven't yet considered giving up their destructive ways. 

I'm open to the possibility of adding a Border Collie pup. I really miss the zest of one around the farm. Since Colliewobble died, this has been the longest time period where I haven't had a Border Collie underfoot. Plus another thing, in a few years three of the farm guard dogs will be elderly. So I'm also willing to welcome another dog or two for farm protection purposes once the senior dogs pass on. 

Above.....thanks for the hammock, Mom! 

Status quo. But around here, status quo doesn't usually happen when it comes to cats. There are always new strays and drop-offs in need of homes. So let's just say that I'm not looking for new cats. 

While not adverse to taking in retired horse/pony or alpaca, I'm not looking for one. But I surely wouldn't rule out the possibility of one or two showing up here. Too often a hard luck animal comes along that really needs a helping hand. So the future farm plan doesn't call for an assortment of new additions, but one never knows what the future really holds. It's just not in the plans, that's all. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Farm Plan - Livestock

Currently the homestead has a diverse livestock roll call. Each has something to contribute to the big picture. But I openly admit, the main reason for having such a diverse group is that I like having them. I'm having a good time learning about the various farm animals.  

Livestock aren't mandatory for a homestead farm, but my own plan includes them for a variety of reasons. They provide services, resources, food. They provide an intangible asset -- they are good company and give me lots of pleasure. 

Present roll call............


number: hovers around 50 birds, more or less
Chickens easily fit into my homestead scheme. They produce food -- eggs & meat. The excess eggs are a popular trade item.They are a significant fertilizer source for the gardens. While free-foraging, they clean up excess bugs and satisfy their need for grit on their own (meaning that I don't have to buy it). And a good portion of their food comes from green waste harvested from on the farm --- grass clippings, weeds, crop residue (leaves, stems, trimmings from veggies & fruits grown or human food), and some fodder crops. I also collect foraged foods-- neglected fruits from others' trees, kitchen waste from friends, grass clippings from others' land. Extra protein comes from slaughter waste, roadkill, and vermin. At this point of time the flock also gets 4 to 6 cups of purchased mash a day and free choice coral sand. The reason for the mash? To soak up the processing juices from cooking the "mom's famous slop & glop". 


number: 2 bucks, 14 does
Rabbits are also a very easy fit into my homestead scheme. They produce meat. Excess rabbits are a popular trade item. And are a significant and valuable manure source for the gardens. A major amount  of their food comes from the farm in the form of green chop (grasses, weeds, tree & brush trimmings), crop residues, and fodder crops. Foraged fruits top off the greens. Purchased grains currently supplement their diet. 

number: 2 rams, 7 ewes
My third favorite homestead farm animal recommendation. Sheep are easy homestead livestock. They have fit into my homestead scheme from the beginning. Sheep give the farm meat for people and manure for the pastures. Slaughter waste goes to feed chickens and pigs. Plus the excess lambs are a good trade item. They have done an excellent job at brush clearing and grass trimming. All of their food except for 2 cups of sweet grains daily is farm produced. I use the grain to keep them friendly. 


number: normally 1 or 2
Pigs have come to be farm members but are not permanent year around residents. They contribute to the farm by providing meat and individual resales. And they process a lot of farm waste, getting fed much like the chickens do. A neat service they also provide is ground clearing. They will eat off the grasses and snuffle up the ground surface making it easier for me to open up new areas for gardens. And they add fertilizer to the ground as they snuffle along. 

Number: fluctuates
Keeping bees alive and residing on my farm I find to be very difficult. With commercial beehives coming & going on the big macnut farm above me, my bees constantly have to battle new influxes of hive beetle and varroa mite. As a result, I frequently lose hives to swarming when a new influx of hive pests arrive. But I believe they are worth the effort to try to keep them here on the farm. They do contribute a valuable service by pollinating the vegetables and trees. My strongest hives occasionally provide a bit of honey. 

Incidental Animals 
Donkey (1): flock guardian. Manure source for gardens. 
Goat (1): brush control. And he makes us laugh. 
Duck (1): eggs, slug eating.
Fish tilapia (4): mosquito control. And they add nutrients into the irrigation water tank. 
Fish - goldfish, koi, mosquito fish (hundreds): mosquito control in the various ponds.
Dogs (5): farm protection
Cats (14): vermin control

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Farm Plan - Future Fodder

My future plans ----- expand the fodder production. Doubling the amount would help feed the livestock, but I'm really aiming for threefold within the next year or two. That way I wouldn't need to spend time out foraging for fruits and greenery if I didn't want to.

First of all, I'll explain the above map. It represents the front 1/3 of the homestead farm. The road is along the bottom of the map and the pasture area on the back part of the farm is shown at the top of the map. The grey line is the driveway. The blue area is the residential area. The yellow represents the areas currently being used primarily for fodder. And the red areas are areas that I intend to develop for primarily fodder production. I say primarily because while the main focus will be on fodder plants, there will be other things mixed in such as food plants, flowers, guava for trellis wood, etc. 

The nice thing about growing fodder is that I can tuck plants into little nooks. A banana tree here. A pipinola vine growing up a tree there. A patch of kale in the small unused corner. I have lots of unused small nooks, and there's edges and borders that never get used for anything but grass. So there is lots of potential to increase the amount of fodder being grown. 

Sweet potatoes are a great fodder crop for me. It grows even in rather poor soil as long as there is some moisture. It grows in semi shade and even denser shade. I plan to keep planting cuttings any place I happen to have not producing something otherwise. Whenever I have cuttings, I'll be planting them. I foresee the sweets being a predominant ground cover on the farm. 

I plan to add more diversity to the fodder crops that I grow. Why? First of all, it's fun! Second, perhaps it will make life a bit more interesting for the animals. Third, I'd like to learn about growing crops I've never tried before. And I find this all to be enjoyable and satisfying. I like diversity. 

On my list to try growing: 
Sugar beets, fodder beets , mangels
Cukes (I'm a flaming optimist!)
Daikon / radishes
Pigeon peas

Anything else that I'm missing for the list? 

Being frugally minded, I tend to produce my own starts. Sweet potatoes are constantly growing tips that I can harvest for cuttings. Since this is fodder that I'm growing, I don't need to buy specificly named varieties from a seed company, so a sack of fresh racehorse oats, whole corn, and barley from the feed store will do for fodder crops. The extra I don't need for seeding can go to feed the livestock. Wheat, buckwheat, sesame, flax, cowpeas, amaranth, and pigeon peas can be obtained from the health food store bulk bins. Surprisingly the germination has proven to be pretty good, and the purchase price quite low, far cheaper than if I purchased them from some seed company. 
Radish, alfalfa, and turnips seeds are sold bulk around here for sprouts. I can save the seed from one of my own cucumbers for starting more fodder cucumbers. That leaves comfrey, but I can get root cuttings from a local organization here. And finally beet and carrot seed, which I'll just have to buy from some seed supplier. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Farm Plan - Current Fodder Plan

Fodder crops are those destined to be fed to the livestock, but are not part of the grazing system. Traditionally that includes corn, other grains, green chop made into silage, fodder beets, etc. 

Since my farm scale is small, I don't grow large fields of fodder items. Most are tucked into my own food producing garden areas. New areas opened for gardens often grow a fodder crop or two before switching to something else. And veggie plants growing my own food are often used for fodder too. Examples:
...sweet potatoes. We eat the tuber, livestock eats the rest of the plant.
...green beans. We eat the fresh beans, livestock gets the rest of the plant. 
The above photo shows an area I haven't had time to turn into a food garden yet. It gets about five hours of sunlight along the edge of the woods. Right now it's a perfect spot for fodder crops- beans, pumpkin, sweet potato. 
Bananas can be tucked in just about anywhere. I planted a few beside the house in a spot where we will be using to expand the bathroom and hot tub deck. So eventually the bananas will have to go. But for now they can produce fodder. 
Bananas also line the perimeter of the developing Secret Garden. Eventually more trees will be added in order to form a visual block for this side of the garden area. 
The driveway garden area just recently got cleared of ferns, so I immediately tucked in some fodder crops to take over while I gradually work to make this garden area. Beans. Taro. Sweet potatoes. Pipinolas. Okinawan Spinach. 
Why waste the space around the catchment tank? The pumpkins and sweet potatoes will make good fodder crops. 

But I do some have areas pretty much dedicated to fodder. Those areas are often too shady, too difficult to easily access, or too dry for veggie gardens. This includes areas transitioning from sunny grassy areas too shady woods, the entire Secret Garden, the dry river bed, and some wooded areas not yet transitioned into pasture. 
Plus the area between the boulevard the electrical shed wasn't getting used for anything. Now it grows fodder crops. (Pictured above) 

Currently my purposely planted fodder crops that are primarily grown for fodder include (we eat a little of some of them): 
Pumpkins / winter squash / gourds
Sugar Cane
Okinawan Spinach
Sweet Potatoes

A nice thing about fodder crops is that they don't take up my time. It's pretty much plant and walk away. I'm not relying upon high productivity so I'm happy with whatever happens to grow. If the beds gets weedy or filled with grass, I don't feel the last bit guilty about not getting to it. When I harvest the greenery, I can take grass, weeds, and all to offer to the livestock. 
The sweet potatoes I planted (above) were bordering a grassy area. With all the recent rains, the grass has gone crazy and invaded the sweets. No problem. I'll just harvest everything, cutting it right down to the ground for feeding to the rabbits. Then the sweet s will resort, letting me know where the tubers are located. I'll harvest them then turn over the soil, removing grass as I dig, and plant over again.