Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lima Pods

As you know, I've never grown lima beans before, so I don't know what to expect. That also means that I don't know if things are going along as normal or if there is a problem. Like in  .... twisty young pods. 

The vines look healthy and are producing baby pods. Lots of pods. But they are twisty. Is that normal? Will the straighten out as they mature? 

Or could they be characteristic for this particular variety? I haven't the foggiest. But I'll keep an eye on them as time goes by and see what happens. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Volcano Update

It's showtime! 

A sluggish ooze of lava has been traveling across the previous lava fields, slowly making its way downhill and toward the ocean. After a long trek, it's finally made it. Below you can make out the fresh active lava as the silvery ragged trail coming down from the upper right, then crossing over the roadway. 

(Photo from the Hawaiian Vocano Observatory website) 

People.....right up at the lava. Yup. Around here the officials won't stop you if you wish to stand upon unstable lava 6 feet from the real deal flowing rock. (Getting any closer singes the hair right off your arms!). It's no surprise to me that occasionally some tourist goes missing, one who was reported to have been hiking around the active lava fields. 

(photo by David Ford)

Seeing lava is a spectacular experience, well worth the long hike out to it. No, you can't drive a car up to it. Expect a three to five mile hike, depending upon which way you hike in. 

(Photo by Davd Ford)

Right now there are boat tours that get really close to the ocean entry. Thus there are great photo opportunities and an experience few people get to have in their lifetimes. I'm looking forward to getting a seat on one of those boats. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

How Apropos

Business came up and I needed to take a quick trip over to Maui. With the business pau, I knocked around Lahaina until the scheduled plane ride home. Passing a vacant lot often frequented by the homeless of the area, I stumbled upon a perfect photo opportunity. Truthfully, I missed it, but my companion jumped on it immediately. Stopping traffic in order to get the shot, she has immortalized this great opportunity. Opportunity you ask? Sure! Here's a perfectly useable shopping cart, even fully furnished to boot! Complete with bedroll, assorted discards, and a plastic bag to hold stuff, situated right on prime squatting real estate. What more could one ask for? 

I failed to check on how much the rent was, but being in down town Lahaina, I probably can't afford it. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gardens Around the House

Now that the walking path is getting done, I'm cleaning up the area between the path and the house in order to make pretty gardens. Oh, nothing stunning enough to cause a photographer from Better Homes & Gardens to stop by, but pleasing none the less. I've always liked flowers and am ready for some color around the house. 

This is not my first attempt to have flower beds around the base of the house. Let's see....I think I've had 4, possibly 5, attempts so far and while not complete failures, the end results that were definitely lacking in one major aspect --  soil retention. The soil kept getting dragged under the house by the various dogs taking shortcuts under the house and by heavy rain water washing it away. I never made any kind of significant soil blockage system because there was always the idea of some day working under the house for one reason or another, thus we'd need easy access. But I now say, enough is enough. After over ten years of waiting to use that "easy access", I've decided to make the flower beds. But I am compromising. No cement or rock soil barrier. I'm going to use plastic edging. And before I'm done I'll make a guava stick lattice work to block the dogs' access.

The 6" plastic edging is easy to work with once it's sits in the sun for a few hours. Once warmed, it's far easier to unroll and manipulate. I tried doing it when it was cold and forget it. What a struggle! Unroll curls back. Try to bend it, it fights you. Errrrg. But after sitting in the sun, it gets a tad easier, I didn't say "easy", but it was an improvement. 
Above, a piece of the edging, so you know what I talking about.

I finally found a use for these plastic stakes I picked up at a yard sale. They're one of those purchases where they were a real bargain, even if I didn't have the foggiest idea what I would use them for later. For this job, they were the perfect item. Glad I had them handy. 

The first thing that needed to be done was clear out the work area. 
(Above, I'm in the prices of removing all the taro and the mamaki tree....along with the weeds.) 

(Above, the papaya trees out and the pumpkin vine severely trimmed back.)

(Above, most of the plants removed and the soil dug up to loosen it. The black wavy line is the plastic bedliner in its approximate final position. I still need to adjust it and stake it down.) 
(A closer view)

Out goes the papaya trees and mamaki tree (they were getting too big for the space anyway), the numerous taros, the assorted old flowers. Next I raked back some of the good soil that had been pushed or washed under the edge of the house. Next, laid out the plastic edging and staked it into place. Easier said than done. In actuality it's a case of struggle with a long twisting black flat snake and wrestle it into position, hoping to get a stake driven in past the numerous lava chunks in order to subdue the self-minded "snake". After many a failed attempt, I resorted to using large lava chunks to hold the "snake" in an approximate position while I attempted to fine tune it's location and drive a stake in. After an hour, I won-snake lost, though the snake didn't quite end up where I envisioned it would be. Oh, good enough. 

Once the edging was in place, I mixed in compost. In a few spots I've already started planting and topping the newly made flower bed with mulch. I'll need plenty more flowering plants. So I need to make starts and sow seeds. 
Above-- a few things planted. It's a start.

Monday, July 25, 2016

DIY Engine Repair

Strum, sputter, utt-putt, strum, sputter. Dang, that sounds horrible. Looks like the generator is trying to die on us. With all the clouds and overcast lately, we rely upon that generator to keep our solar system functioning. Sunshine has been in short supply lately. So a dead generator would be a serious problem. 

Getting out the owners manual, which of course we've never read, I give it a quick scan looking for info and read the entire, though very short, troubleshooting section. You talk about not being helpful. That troubleshooting page basically sad that if the generator isn't out of gas and something it wrong with it, take it to an authorize service center. What? Hey buddy, I'm out in the middle of the sticks! And besides, most authorized service centers for just about anything are located on Oahu, not here. 

Has anyone else noticed that nowadays owners manuals for most equipment are next to useless for repairs? They seem to be pages full of warnings and disclaimers now, just something to protect the manufacturer from lawsuits and stupid people from maiming themselves. 

Anyway, back to the ailing generator engine. Internet to the rescue. Hubby searched using the engine's symptoms and came up with the most likely causes and fixes. The problem ended up being the air filter. 
Looks ok, right?

Take it off the engine and flip it over, and egads! Looks like it smokes two packs of Camels a day!

New filter in place, and the engine purred like a happy kitten. We were in fact surprised to see the air filter fail so rapidly since the generator is practically new, but it goes to show that there has been a lot of volcanic activity lately. The poor air filter was almost totally clogged. Looks like this is something to put into our monthly checked list while the volcano is so active ...... clean the various air filters. 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Darby Pau ....for us

3 inches of rain overnight. Not bad. Not that I needed more rain here, but 3" is far better than it could have been. I surely didn't want more! 

Storm in hindsight......
     After seeming to stall right off the coast, Darby made landfall 10 miles northeast up the coast from the small town of Pahala. Then things went downhill for the storm, with it becoming unorganized and changing away from the anticipated track. According to the weather tracking experts, the eye veered west and travelled across Ka'u (right over the homestead, just like the last storm that hit us) and headed up the coast toward Kona, finally reforming out at sea. Practically a repeat of the last one that hit Ka'u.
     The massive volcanoes here apparently affect these storms, causing them to shred and morph. Really interesting phenomenon. 

Once the main body of the storm passed us, the rains arrived. Rained all night. 

We got no winds, and until the eye passed us, virtually no rain. Yup, those volcano-mountains must be storm shredders. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hurricane Darby Update

No problem as of 5 pm.  The storm made a direct hit but sort of broke apart. Best I can figure is that it is crossing Ka'u, but you wouldn't know it. No wind. No rain. That part seems to have gone to the east thus far. 
It is very strange right now. We can hear lots of thunder coming from the slopes of Mauna Loa. But only the merest gentle breeze and a very light off & on drizzle hints of the big storm out there. Apparently most of the rain is out in the ocean. 

Only time will tell if Ka'u gets much from the storm tonight. But since it appears to be veering away, perhaps not. The east side of the island has gotten heavy rain. The north has gotten wind. Us.....nada. 

Hurricane Darby

For my mainland friends, here's an update. 

Yes, there's a weak hurricane, just slipping down to tropical storm classification, heading right for our island. In fact, it's right off the coast as I speak.  The system dumped several inches of rain on the east coast of the island, but not much in my south coast area. Perhaps I'll see more rain from the back side of the storm. 
In the above photo, the eye is to the right of the island, right off the Puna coast. One can see the bands of clouds/rain traveling up the east coastline, and the southern area which is relatively cloud and rain free at the moment. 

Here's another type of radar picture giving an idea of the storm. 

So there's lots of heavy rain still out over the ocean and heading toward the island. 

We're safe on the farm. Parhaps we will get rain and wind here, but it doesn't look to be catastrophic. We're prepared. Back in NJ, we'd run out and stock up on milk and toilet paper. Hey people make sure they have plenty of spam and rice.  😀

Friday, July 22, 2016

Walking Path Update

With all the recent rain, there hasn't been much opportunity to work with cement. But happily, there has been a few sunny mornings lately. So here's what's gotten done so far that is new since that last report ......

Above, two mornings we got this part done. And later we got more two good mornings to work and completed another stretch.........

I'm tickled with how well it's turning out. 

As you can see, the path is being built right atop the ground. But the ground is very little soil and actually is already mostly well compacted lava chunks. I'm not bothering to use rebar because the path won't see much weight. And if it does crack in an earthquake, it should be simple to just patch it. As this path weathers, it will darken and any patching would not be noticed over time. Perhaps in the future  I will regret not using rebar but I'm betting that I won't. Besides, we don't see freezing weather here that would cause expansion and contraction issues. 

One thing that I'm pleased with so far is that we've done a fairly good job at not creating low spots that would collect rainwater. I'm getting plenty of rain, so the path has been tested daily! So far, so good. 

Photo taken at a different angle........

Ah, the path looks rather inviting. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Limas Update

Wow, almost a whole month has gone by since I first talked about my lima bean experiment. I really wasn't sure that I could grow limas on the homestead, but it looks like it's successful. Well, that conclusion might be premature since I haven't harvested any beans yet, but at least the vines are growing. 

Here's how the plants look today. Big. Lush. Vigorous. I've been weaving the vines down and across the trellis, trying to let them grow long but not always vertically. So by now they've taken over the entire tellis. 

This week they are starting to push blossoms. In fact, I'm seeing my very first honest to goodness baby pods. Yee-ha! Yup, I get excited over little things like this. Aaaaaaah, life can be good. 

The flowers are a lovely light purple. Not what I'd call showy, but rather delicate and pretty. Those two little green crescent things below the flowers are my first two pods just starting to grow. Now let's hope some bug (or even worse, the goat!) doesn't come along and eat them. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Battle With The Grass Weeds

Here's my main problem.....grass. This tropical grass is nothing like I've dealt with before. Pull it out and it comes back, for real. Lots of tenacious underground runners that are almost impossible to remove in entirety. 

For the past many months I've been getting almost daily rain. Often light, but it's daily and the grasses are thriving on it. Most weeds are easy to remove....yank...gone. But the grass just keeps spreading. 

I've tried both concentrated vinegar spray and a flamer, both with poor results. A thorough dousing with vegetable oil works, but then the soil is saturated in oil, which kills worms and soil microbes. And what happens to the oil? Where does it end up? Sounds bad to me. Several readers suggested strong salt applications, but since I'm getting rain almost every day, the salt would simply leech away without killing the grass. 

Another thing that worked well enough for me in the past was weedwacking the grass right down to soil level. While it didn't kill the blasted stuff, it set it back several months. But not now. Too much rain, so the grass simply bounces right back. 

Thus I've opted to start over again at square one by killing the grass the only way I've found to be effective in this situation. I've opted for a dose of commercial herbicide. 

So why bother getting rid of the grass in the first place? Fear of a disabling fall. The grass gets really slick with repeatative rains. Just walking from the car to the house can become rather hazardous. I'd rather be walking on the compacted base course driveway than the slippery grass. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Major Failure in Time Management

For two weeks now I've been silent in this blog. I'm fine, thank you. Hubby is fine, thank you. All the livestock are fine, thank you. But my time budget has taken a fatal blow. 

Up until lately, I've done reasonably well following a time budget that I created got myself. Each week, actually each day, I allot a certain amount of time to devote to various projects : farm work, new projects, household, personal, etc. A strict budget never works for me, but I've managed to generally follow my own guidelines and keep my head above water. But since I've started trying to work on the project of having this farm earn a profit, the time budgeting turned into a house of cards which the Hawaiian breezes keep blowing into a pieces. Aaaahhh, the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. 

So I'm making changes. Some days saving time becomes far more important to me than staying self reliant. This past week I started feeding haycubes to the rabbits instead of taking the time to hand gather all their food. They're still getting greens, fruits, and veggies, but instead of gathering twice a day I'm feeding fresh food only in the mornings and supplementing it with a handful of cubes. That saves a chunk of time. Same idea for the chickens and pig.......cooked food for their major feeding in the morning and commercial feed snack for the evening feeding. Perhaps in the future I will once again eliminate the commercial feed aspect, but for now I see that I need to use it in order to develop a farm income profit. 

That saved time I'm devoting to working on my new nursery and returning to blogging. I'm sure you'll appreciate the latter. 

One more change I'm making......herbicide. Because of the weather, the grass situation has gone hog wild here. Grass is really difficult for me to control by non-chemical herbicidal methods. I have a choice......spend days hand chopping and hand topping grasses in those difficult places, or hitting it once with a commercial herbicide. My time crunch says it's time to buy a bottle of roundup. So yesterday I sprayed for three hours and gained days and days of free time to devote elsewhere. I have no regrets. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Safer Walking Paths

What's it like to deal with daily rain? Well, it affects lots of things. One is the walking paths around the house. After a while the grass dies along the paths, then mud forms. Then after that, moss grows on the mud. Life becomes a dangerous situation of slip sliding away. After taking several half slips and a few full falls, I've decided it's time to make serious changes. Consulting with David (my part time muscle), the decision was reached to make concrete paths with surface rocks to give the best traction.......besides looking better than just plain concrete. 

Three scoops of sand and three bags of cement later, we're making progress. 

Oh, I failed to mention that we needed to first mark out the paths, cut strips and pegs to create the forms. While David started things, I spray painted the general outline the paths would follow and  weedwacked the grass short. Then I was off to gather bucket after bucket full of rocks. 

The paths will connect to the small concrete pads that already exist at the base of entryway steps. And they will go around the house and head in the direction of frequently visited areas.....meaning the driveway and the shed housing the solar equipment and generator. We still have quite a bit to do, but it's a start. I'll post photos of the finished product in a week or two. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Happy as a Pig in Mud

Sunny and hot & dry for a change. It's getting to be like Hawaii around here. While I'm enjoying drying out for a couple days, Miss Pinky (the pig) doesn't share my enthusiasm. I've shaded half her pen and given her a little swimming pool to lounge in, but I can see that she just isn't satisfied. So I've got a surprise planned for her. 

Gather up one shovel, one farm dog, and six gallons of water. Walk down to Miss Pinky's pen. Now for the action.....,,,

1- let the pig out to play and run with the farm dog for five minutes. 
2- dig up a corner of the pen and add six gallons of water. 
3- call the pig back into the pen. 

When I call the pig(s) back, I always give them a treat. In this case, it was several bruised mangos, a pig favorite. Miss Pinky dove right into munching mangos, but looked up when she noticed Crusty the farm dog nosing around the wet puddle. If you aren't aware of it, pigs are real curious creatures, so abandoning the mango pile, she checked out what the dog was up to. Whoa....mud! Weeeeeee. Whoppee. Hallelujah. Thank the pig gods! 
Roll around one side, then the other, then.........
Lay for a moment in sheer bliss while making little happy piggy woofs. 

Then give it a good belly and butt scratch before re-shimmying on both sides again. 

And finally when you're all done, come thank Mom and ask for a big hug.......yuk! You're nothing but mud! .......yeah, isn't it just great!?!?!!!!!!!!