Sunday, October 15, 2017

Growing Jicama

Jicama, also called yam bean, grows well on my farm. Originally from Mexico, this plant likes the long, warm Hawaiian growing season. It's grown for its tubers...NOT the beans, which are poisonous. In fact, the tubers are the only edible part of the plant. It grows as a vine and does well when supported by a fence, trellis, or even a bush or young tree. 

Above, a fairly young vine growing on a fence. 

A close up of a leaf. 

The flowers are a beautiful shade of blue. Under good conditions, the vine gets quite covered in flowers. Very, very pretty. 

Following the flowers are long pods full of beans. The beans contain rotenone, thus I am careful not to grow this over one of my fish ponds nor allow my puppy and livestock near the stuff. 

My current vines are not old enough to harvest the tubers, but I'll show you that when the time comes. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Faces of Hope

Last Wednesday was another cat neutering clinic. As always, it affected me profoundly. As a result I've spent the past several days writing, rewriting, and repetitively rewriting this blog entry. None were suitable for publishing. Too much ranting, too emotional. And besides, most of my blog readers already seem to have respect for life. I don't need to preach to the choir. 

So I will just show the faces of hope...the cats who have been lucky enough to get a chance to live their lives with less stress. Wednesday we gave them hope for a life with less fear. Yes, these are a few of the lucky ones this week. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

First Dairy Goats Arrive

Three new arrivals have joined our homestead farm, making the farm a bit more complete. 

Cali.......the mom. She's mostly Nigerian but not pure. Around here, purebred anything is the oddity, it appears. I'm not sure why people here prefer to mix their breeds of goats, cattle, horses, chickens, name it, whatever. But they do. So Cali is mostly Nigerian, but something else was mixed in. She was bred to a mostly Nigerian buck, resulting in 2 kids........

It's a doeling. Cute, playful. Sweet. 

A handsome little buckling. Smart and friendly. 

The kids are about 4 days old and doing fine. I plan to let them nurse off of mom during the day, boxing them at night so that I can milk Cali first thing in the morning. We shall see how well this works out. 

Being mostly Nigerian, Cali has small teats. She's a two finger milker, for sure. I've already been working with her and she allows me to milk her with very little problem. Nice goat, considering she's never done this before. I'm taking whatever amount of milk that I want for our breakfast table, then letting the kids rejoin mom. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Nigerian Goats?

Why did I choose to go with Nigerians? Fair question. There are plenty of goat breeds that produce a heck of a lot more milk than Nigerians. So little Nigerians are a poor choice for milk production and feed conversation. But have you noticed that they have short legs? I consider that to be a major plus! 

Around here, I use standard 4' high field fencing. I tend to rotate the livestock through the pastures, so I want an economical fencing that will hold in all my livestock. Fencing sold here for sheep is too short for goats. And anything over 4' high gets pricy. So 4' is my best compromise. 

Now....4' isn't high enough to keep in a curious standard sized goat. While I see plenty of goats behind 4' fences, I also hear plenty of tales of owners chasing wayward goats......gardens and prized shrubs getting eaten....goats getting onto the highway and causing accidents. I've had my own incidents of my own goat, Bucky, hopping my fence and eating almost my entire garden by morning! 

Building a goat-only pasture system wasn't appealing. Having to go to the expense of 5' or 6' fencing plus all those extra long t-posts wasn't in my budget. And the thought of having to pound in 8' t-posts sounded way too painful. Remember, I'm doing most everything by human power, not farm machinery. 

Nigerians are also known for having sweet milk. Among my Alpines, while most had decent tasting milk, I often had to cull out those that had a strong goaty flavored milk. And even their best milk had that slight goaty undertone. I thought that off flavored milk was due to having a buck around or by letting them eat strong tasting foods, but that wasn't the case with my does. They all ate the exact same diet and sometimes I'd get a new doe with strong, objectionable milk. So there must be a genetic factor involved. Nigerians supposedly don't have this problem. We shall see. 

Nigerians have nice personalities. Every person I've talked with who has or had Nigerians say that they liked them. That's a plus. I can't say that for some breeds. Even my own Bucky, a Nubian wether, isn't all that pleasant to be around. Some Nubians can be a challenge to handle......and those make nice smoked meat, sausage, dog food.

So I'm on a quest to find a few nice goats that are all or mostly Nigerian. Around here, purebred anything is difficult to find, so I'm willing to consider goats that are high percentage Nigerian. As long as they have short legs and sweet milk! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Harvesting Turmeric - Step 2

This year I'm growing quite a bit of turmeric. The roots that I got planted early are just getting ready for harvesting, while the later planted stuff is still green and needs a couple more weeks (I'm guessing). And talking with some other gardeners, I've learned that the turmeric growing in lower, warmer elevations is ready for harvesting well before the higher elevations. I'm about mid-way on the elevation, so some folks have been harvesting for a few weeks while others are still waiting. 

Once the plant is turning brown, I can start harvesting....if I'm impatient. Which I am! I'm out of turmeric and am eager for a resupply. But usually I can let the plant die back even more, as long as the weather isn't daily rain. Below, this plant isn't quite ready for harvesting, but what the heck. It's actually a plant I missed harvesting last year, so it matured ahead of the other plants around it. 

In fact, I missed harvesting a number of plants last year and the tops died completely back and disappeared. Last winter I accidentally found a number of them and was able to harvest the roots.  The hidden turmeric roots were perfectly fine. So I discovered that once the plants die back, the roots can be harvested for use at anytime up until they resprout. 

(Above, when I dug up that dry plant I found a large root ball.) 

I'm finding that the larger the piece that I plant, the larger the fan of roots that I can harvest. Of course that assumes fertile soil and adequate water. Example, this plant I just dug up.........

Wow, what a large clump!!!! As I said, it was a plant I missed harvesting last year. Pretty impressive how much I can get from a missed plant. 

Once I harvest the roots, I cure them by putting them in a dry, airy, shaded spot. Then I store some in the frig wrapped in a damp cloth (so that it's handy) for fresh use. Some sliced up and in the freezer for cooking (it gets soft but it's fine for cooking). Some I will dehydrate then powder (I use a coffee grinder). But the bulk gets stored in the ground where it will stay in good condition until I use it or it starts to sprout. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Harvesting Turmeric -Step 1

The first time I grew turmeric, I had not a clue what to expect. Besides the fact that I grew it all wrong, I didn't know what to look for as a sign that harvest was pending. The first time I saw the tips of the leaves dying, I actually thought it was either vog burn or a disease of some sort. Actually, it was the beginning of the plants natural dying back. The vast majority of the leaves didn't tip die, but it was the first sign I saw. 

At the start, a few leaves here and there look like something burned the tips. But before long the entire patch started yellowing. 

Next I saw entire plants yellowing and browning. 

Not all the plants were on the same time scheduke, but eventually they all die back. 

I'm waiting until the entire plant has died before I harvest the root. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Flea Beetles Again

Flea beetle attack! They're back! So I looked up on this blog to see when and where I had flea beetle problems in the past. Turns out it was March 2015 in the exact same area. 

(While these bean plants are mature and aging anyway, the flea beetles caused severe damage to the leaves.) 

Back in 2015 I tried all sorts of things to rid the bed of flea beetles. Frankly, without resorting the big chemical attack or flamethrower, nothing quite worked. The best was the safer soap with pyrethins, but I learned that one needs to start spraying the moment the first flea beetle is seen. Otherwise they've laid eggs and it too late to eliminate them without daily spraying. I'd skip a few days and check....scads of beetles again. In the end I ripped out everything that the little bugs would eat and planted a resistant crop for 9 months. That seemed to get rid of them. But they're back again. Happily I was able to harvest several crops of beans, peas, and potatoes in this spot before the beetles returned. 

(A close up of the damage. The leaves bleach out. A few beetles are on the tops of the leaves but the vast majority are on the undersides.) 

Plan of attack : 
Remove all susceptible plants from the area. 
Till in generous amounts of compost and manure. 
Plant a crop that flea beetles won't attack. 
Wait 6 to 9 months before planting beans, peas, or potatoes again. 

I notice that this type of flea beetle also likes sweet potatoes. So I'll need to watch my sweets in the adjacent growing areas for beetles. 

Above, all those little black spots on the bottom of the leaf are flea beetles. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Delicious & Homegrown

I've had people question whether or not one can make a delicious complete (or 99% complete) meal from one's own farm. Huh? Do they equate homegrown with simple & bland? I guess so. Around here, good meals use ingredients available right off the land. And if not entirely from your own little piece of paradise, then they can be had locally, either grown by others or foraged/fished/hunted. 

Below is a posting from another local person's blog. "S" is mini-farming her acre of lava desert, and successfully producing some yummy meals. So yes, it can be done. One doesn't really need to go to the supermarket to find enticing food that begs you to sit down and enjoy a meal. 
"S" post.....

A community garden twist on a Filipino dish. 

Chunks of my home bred pig, with vegetables from the community garden harvest table: onion, tomato, snow peas, peas, some green cabbage, and 2 tender pipinola squash, cut into chunks. Alas, I did not have the fresh garlic or the fish sauce to make it more traditionally flavored. I made do with garlic salt, Bragg's amino acids, and Hawaiian chili pepper paste (my go-to seasonings).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Setting Up For Dairy Goats

I'm ready to add a couple of dairy goats. While Saanans, Alpines, and other breeds are better milkers, I've settled upon getting a couple of Nigerians. They are smaller goats that are less apt to jump a four foot high standard field fence. And besides, I don't need lots of milk. Since Nigerians already exist on this island, it won't be a major problem finding a few for sale. 

The first task is to make a secure pasture. The area near the mini-barn has several large rock piles that would make a wonderful playground for goats. It's about half an acre. And it's a plus that it's near the barn, the electricity, and a water source. The only down side is that some of the area is pahoehoe lava with very, very shallow soil. Thus pounding in fence posts will be a challenge without bringing in a hydraulic hammer or a big rock drill. 

Keeping that pahoehoe lava in mind, I purchased some standard 6' t-posts, but also some shorter 5' ones. It turned out to be a good idea. Some of those 5 footers were needed. Since they couldn't be pounded in far enough, a bit of concrete at the base holds them well enough. 

A roll of mid-grade field fence was fairly easy to put up. Not that a fencing job is easy! It's not complicated, but it's hard work. Since the grass had grown up too much, the first step was to weedwack a path for the fencing. Pound in the posts, then roll out the fence. Working from one end, pull the fencing into place and clip it to the t-posts. Sounds simple. It's a workout far better than any gym will give you....and without the need of a membership fee! 

In that this fencing may some day need to be raised in height, I opted to buy a 6' high gate. It was only $10 more than the 4' high one. I thought it was good insurance to go with the 6' gate. But let's hope that the goats don't learn to jump the fence. 

Once the fencing was up, the next task was to erect a shelter for them. Here in my area, the only shelter they need (or will use) is a rain roof. 

I wanted the shelter to be near the mini-barn. So a simple rain roof was built up against the tool shed. This will work for rain protection just fine. Rains here are seldom ever wind driven. In fact, in the past 13 years I've never had rain come in sideways at an angle. But if we were to get a hurricane, I could nail up temporary tarp walls for better protection. 

I plan to build a milking stand against that shed wall under the rain roof, but that will be a future project. 

One extra benefit of that rain roof will be to help keep the goats' water trough full. I plan to get two small Rubbermaid livestock troughs and position them to catch the rain running off the roof. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Small Tool Shed

With the garden area being expanded, another small tool shed will come in handy. It can be used for tools, general storage, storing seed potatoes, and other things. Plus it will be on the other side of the main growing area, thus I won't have to walk so far to get that tool I forgot. 

This new shed is simple 2x4s, plywood, and tin roof. A 5'x5' footprint, it is small but very useable. It's small enough to be moveable, if needed. It is too heavy to move by hand, but a skid steer with forks can handle it with no problem (yes, I've already checked.)

At first I was going to make it 4'x4'. It seemed to be a more efficient use of the lumber. But when I thought about how I would be using the shed, I figured that 5'x5' would be more useable. Something larger would be too difficult to move to a new location, so 5'x5' was my final decision. 

A small shed like this is simple to build. There are lots of easy to follow plans on the Internet. It took two days to finish it only because we took our time. I think it took about 10 hours to build from start to finish. But that doesn't include painting it or finishing off the inside, tasks I still need to do. 

Since I had a small plastic tank that I wasn't using at the moment, I opted to create a rainwater catchment system off this shed roof. It won't be a lot of water, but it should be fine for washing off a few tools as needed. I haven't finished this set up yet. The gutter is in place but I still need to cobble together some pvc piping or hose to channel the water into the tank. Then I'll need to install a spigot in the bottom of the tank. Finishing it off with a deep sink or washtub below the spigot should be sufficient. I've got those in the boneyard and just have to decide which would be better to use here. I'll show you a photo when I have it completed. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Fixing Up the Utility Shed

This shed was built in 2002 and outside of being repainted, it hasn't received much maintenance. So it was time. In truth, it was far overdue. 

Since the small solar system in the shed was pau (no longer functional), I opted to bring light into the shed with two new windows. The windows also help keep the shed cooler, since on hot sunny days it would become an oven inside. Good for drying macnuts, but not so good for seeing what you're doing. 

Window on the east side...above. 
Windows on the west side....below.
They're trimmed out but not painted yet. These are just standard 2'x3' sliding windows I picked up at Home Depot. 

The ramp leading up to the door was rotting. Since I no longer needed to use this shed to store the tiller and generator, I no longer needed a ramp. So I cobbled together a platform to help step up into the shed. 

The roof had developed a small leak. A slathering of Henry's roof patch solved that problem. 

Next....empty out the shed, drag over a hose and give it a thorough washing. There was evidence of a few mice and rat visitors, thus I didn't want to raise dust by brooming. Water was a safer option. Once dry, the entire interior got a coat of sealer. 

Now was the chance to fix up the floor. Tapping with a hammer, I couldn't find any soft spots, nor any spot that produced a funny sound. It was still in good shape. I took the opportunity to tile the floor. The tile will help keep the shed nicer and easier to clean. 

The final touch -- trim. Finishing off the trim around the door, windows, and on the corners, the shed is looking good. I expect it to last a number of years yet. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The New Puppy

I was planning on leaving this topic till last, on my list of projects accomplished, but I keep running into people or getting emails asking me about the pup. So I'll bump this topic to the top of the list : The Puppy

(Plane ride home.) 

Yes, I'm nuts. Getting a puppy is totally insane. But for the past two years I've been considering doing it. At times I've thought "yes", and at other times I thought "no". But I know that time isn't on my side. I'm at a point where I won't be wanting to do the puppy thing much of the problems of growing older. Puppies take lots of time, patience, and training. They completely interfere with one's life.  I always look at a puppy and think about that first year of agony and that second year of difficulty that comes along with puppy ownership. It takes about two years before a puppy becomes a real cooperative family member and the owner fully adapts to the pup. I've done it many times and know what to expect. 

After much mulling it over, we decided to get one more puppy in our lives. (Oh, this surely won't be our last dog added to the family, but future additions will be adults who are in desperate need of a home.) With the decision made, which sort of pup will get look for? Initially I wanted to get one of another breed I was already very familiar with...either a Border Collie, a Shiba Inu, a Siberian Husky. Over time though, we changed our minds. These breeds would be very challenging. Although I kept toying with the idea of one of these, hubby suggested getting a breed that we've never had before. That way we wouldn't fall into the trap of expecting the pup to be just like a dog that we had before. And I agree. Comparing the new pup to past canine friends is destructive behavior often leading to disappointment. So let's look at other breeds that appealed to us. We both liked the labradoodles that we've met, so that became one of the top possibilities. 

(Easiest time to get a photo is when he's sleeping.)

Labradoodles are a mixbreed. One usually never knows exactly what the end product will look and act like with a mixbreed pup. But enough litters of labradoodles have been bred to give a buyer a good idea what to expect from this mix .... almost as good a "sure thing" as with getting a purebred puppy.  And with a lifetime of experience working with puppies, I felt confident that I would be able to evaluate the pup adequately to get what we were looking for. 

Labradoodles can mean two different "breeds"......the Australian Labradoodle which is several generations of Labradoodle bred to Labradoodle (with the interjection of other breeds occasionally, especially poodle) parent being a Labrador Retriever and the other a Poodle. It is the second type that appeals to us. While looking for a pup we also came upon three litters of what is referred to as an F2 litter -- where each parent was the product of a Lab and a Poodle. This sort of mating results in a hodgepodge litter of pups with some physically resembling the Lab, some the Poodle, and the rest somewhere in between. And same for goes for personality....a spectrum running from Lab to Poodle, not necessarily correlating to the physical appearance. So the bottom line is that it's a crap shoot with an F2 litter. 

While finding our pup took searching & persistence and a whole lot of luck, we are now the happy owners of a cool pup named F2 puppy! Yes, you read that correctly. We took the chance on an F2 pup, but he showed all the physical traits and personality that we were looking for. Yes, his name is Noodles. It just seems to fit him. 

(Running around following Crusty.) 

Noodles' future is destined to be that of a close family companion, a dog that shares our car rides, our time, our life. He will also be a general farm dog, not specializing in any particular job other than farm overseer. Time will tell us if he has the propensity to be a guard dog, a ratter, a herder. We shall see. 

(Mouth wrestling with his favorite big brother.) 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

How To Catch More Rain

I've been wanting for years to add more rain catching area, but up until now it wasn't critical. But since I am increasing the vegetable growing areas and focusing more upon cash crops, I need more irrigation water. The mini-barn roof was been sufficient up till now, but no more. The little roof can't keep up with the need. Time to do something. What to do.....tarps? Concrete pad? Roof?

By erecting a roof, I can use gravity to channel the rainwater to the tank. While spreading tarps on the ground could gather rain and would be cheaper, then I'd need a pump to get the water up into the tank. With no electricity available to operate a sump pump, the pump idea would not work for me. A concrete pad would have the same problem, plus be quite expensive. Yes, more durable, but not my best option at the moment. 

Having a roof also provides me with a dry work or storage space. Wet on top, dry underneath. Plus shade, an important factor in this tropical region. Choosing the expense to build the roof was a no brainer for me. It is worth the effort and cost. Cheaper than a concrete pad and more versatile. 

Looking up under the new rain roof, you can see that 2x4s, 2x6s, and 4x4s went into the construction. The upright posts are tied into cement footings. The braces help stabilize the roof and integrity of the structure. The roof itself is corrugated metal that has been screwed into place. Hurricane clips still need to be installed at this point, to help keep the roof in place in case of high winds. It hasn't been done yet because I need to run to Hilo to buy them. The local hardware store is out. But using hurricane clips is a smart idea. 

Another thing that helps stabilize the construction and add more weight is a deck. The rain roof gave me a shaded, dry area that just begged for a work deck. The deck will come in very handy.

At this point, I still need to add a rain gutter and something to direct the rainwater to the tank. The tank is right there on the edge of the roof, so it won't be complicated to do the guttering. I already have used guttering in my farm boneyard that I can use. 

Tasks left to do on this project: 
...install hurricane clips
...finish staining the lumber
...install the rain gutter

Monday, September 25, 2017


Things might be quiet on this blog, but daily life has been a-hopping! I've been working on a number of projects. But I've also been nursing a bad cold, so I haven't been getting everything done that I hoped to. Getting sick, even when it's just a cold, really puts a crimp in my energy level. After dinner, I melt into my lounge chair and....that's it folks. But by the very fact that I'm posting on this blog again, you can rest assured that I'm recovered. 

So what's been going on these past 2 weeks? 

1- Repair and improve the utility shed next to the mini-barn. 
2- Fence in a pasture for dairy goats. 
3- Build a small rain shelter for the new goats. 
4- Build a rainwater catching roof beside the ag tank. 
5- Build a deck under the rain roof.
6- Build a small tool shed. 
7- Expand the garden beds. 
8- Get a puppy..........yikes, yes I did! 

I can't claim to have done all this work all myself. I was feeling too sick. So with David around, I opted to focus on one job and do it well........get a puppy! I think I picked the best of the jobs. 
Above, waiting at the airport to board the plane. 

Riding in the plane. He did really good sitting on hubby's lap. 

His favorite toys : stuffed animals. 

Friday, September 8, 2017


For awhile now I've been growing Azolla in most of my ponds. What's Azolla? It's a small floating water plant. 

(photo- the azolla is the lighter green stuff floating atop the pond water.)

I started it with a very small handful from another person. Just about two dozen tiny plants. If given the right environment, they grow so rapidly that they double their numbers in about two weeks...slower when conditions aren't ideal. But they're aggressive growers none-the-less. And they didn't need any help from me to do that. The fish waste from the koi, guppies, and tilapia seems to be all they fertilizer it needs. 

(Hubby modeling a handful for the camera.) 

My initial reasons for getting azolla, besides the fact that it was cool to look at, was to help shade the water in order to keep it a cooler temperature for the fish. Without the aid of shade, the shallow pond water heats up too high. Plus azolla helps filter waste from the water, again for fish health. None of my ponds have filter systems, so the plants do that vital job. After a few months I saw that I was getting an abundance of azolla, so I started looking into what other uses it could have. I was developing a resource, so how would I utilize it? 

Chicken food: Most evenings I toss one jumbo handful of fresh azolla into the chicken pen. Sometimes I gather several handfuls for them. I don't hang around to see who eats it, but my morning it's gone. 

Soil amendment/fertilizer/soil conditioner: I've read that adding azolla to compost or directly to the soil is a common practice. I haven't used it in the compost, simply because I already have lots of other green material available and I don't yet have bucketfuls of extra azolla to dispose of. But when working with dried out soil, such as during a drought period, I plan to till in some azolla last thing before calling it quits for the day. By the next morning the soil should be easier to work due to being moister and it accept water better (dry soil here tends to repel water). Being that the azolla is small individual plantlets, it's very easy to till in...or even scratch in by hand. 

Fish food: I've read that fish will eat azolla. Honestly, I've never witnessed the fish eating it. But I do know that it took a long time for me to get it established in both the koi and the tilapia ponds. So I suspect they were consuming it. But now that it is well established, if indeed the fish are eating some, the azolla is out growing the fish's appetite for it. 

(A close up look.) 

Ok, azolla can be used as a livestock feed and a soil conditioner, or for fertilizer. They're good enough reasons to add it to this farm's resource list. It's a keeper. 

Cardoon Cooking Info

Shortly it will be time to try our second sample harvest of cardoon. On the first attempt, the cardoon was too bitter to eat. Several readers have asked for more information about this veggie, but alas, I'm a complete novice. So I gleaned the Internet for some gems of knowledge. 

The part of the plant that is harvested is the central core of fairly soft, light grey-green stalks & leaves. This core is cut away from the plant and should feel heavy, be moist but not crisp (like celery). The cut end will discolor but will be discarded during preparation. Care should be taken not to bruise or damage the stalks. 

I discovered that new shoots will regrow from the cut stem that is left in the ground. About 5 shoots grew and I plan to thin them to 2 and see what happens. 

Once harvested, the stalks are bunched together, making the cardoon look somewhat like celery. The abundant leaves above the main stalk bunch can be cut off, since it is the stalks that will be eaten. Wrapped in a damp towel, it can be stored in the refrigerator and should last 5-7 days. 

To prepare it for cooking, cut off the bottom in order to free the stalks, remove any leaves and spines. Oh, I forgot to mention that the stalks have nasty spines along the outer edges. Yes, cardoon is in the thistle family. I'm growing a so called "thornless" variety, but it still has small thorns. I suppose the thorny varieties are truly thorny! The next step is to remove the strings of tough fiber from the outside of the stalks, kind of like the strings in celery but far more wicked. I notice that the stalks are not solid like celery, but semi-hollow inside. A vegetable peeler should work. Then cut the stalk into pieces (anywhere from 1" to 4" seems to be recommended) and immediately place in a bowl of water that has some lemon juice added. This is to prevent discoloration. Yet other cooks advise to soak the cardoon chunks in a bowl of water to which 2 tablespoons of white vinegar has been added. Soaking for 30 minutes is suppose to reduce bitterness. (I haven't tried this yet, so I don't know how well it works.) one other site I visited said to soak the chunks in salted water for an hour before cooking then rinse, and recommended 1 tablespoin of salt per 1/2 gallon of water. 

Now....the cooking: 

Some sites recommend parboiling in salted water prior to the actual cooking process. The water is drained off, then the cardoon chunks are cooled before cooking. After this step, there appears to be a variety of favorite ways of cooking cardoon. Some say to simmer in water, vegetable stock, or chicken broth until tender. One says to microwave in a bowl with a little water, until tender. Another suggests dredging the chunks in seasoned flour then dip into beaten egg before frying in olive oil. I gather from reading the many recipes, cardoon can be braised, sautéed, boiled in soups and stews, or battered & deep fried. The actual cooking time can vary, apparently due to the age of the stalks, and can be up to one hour before the stalks become tender. Ah-ha, perhaps that's one of the reasons behind the suggestion to parboil first. 

There seems to be a lot of prep work to do before cardoon hits the dinner plate. But just about every website said that it was worth it. Apparently the flavor is quite appealing, along the lines of artichokes. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cardoon Update

My first attempt with cardoon was a semi failure. I grew it successfully but the dang stuff wasn't edible. Too bitter.  Yuk. 

Ok, Hawaii isn't the ideal location for it. At least my place isn't.  I'm told that I'm too warm at night. Others have told me that cardoon should have decreasing light when harvested, that meaning, November/December. Yet others have said that it needs to be blanched. There's nothing I can do about the warm night temps, but I can change my planting time so that the crop matures in late fall/ early winter. And I can blanch it. 

Above is a photo of the first blanching experiment. One of the community gardeners wrapped cardboard around the harvestable central parts, hoping to keep most of the sunlight out. We will try leaving it on for a month to month & a half before trying a harvest again. In the meantime the plants will be fertilized and kept moist so that they keep growing. 

In a couple of weeks I'll give you an update after we sample the next harvest. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Which Garden Method?

"P" asked me, "What kind of farming method do I use? I've read some of your blog and can't figure out if you're organic or natural farming." 

Frankly, I'm my own "whatever-works-for-me" method. My aim is to be fairly self reliant, low input, low impact. Sort of like permaculture without the "cult" part. Thus I'm not a diehard advocate of any one particular system. On top of that, I'm always adapting. When I find something that works better, I use it. 

Organic?  That sounds great, but I don't use the chemicals like they do. So I guess I fall more into the "better than organic" classification. But there's that pesky tad of roundup used on the driveway and fence line, a problem for organic proponents. 

Biodynamic? Some of the woo-woo stuff makes my eyes roll, but otherwise it's ok, though I'm not a diehard follower. 

Biointensive? I use a few principles. But frankly, double digging on my farm surely will never happen in my lifetime. I'm glad if I can get "8 of soil! Gardening atop lava rules out biointensive double digging. I actually have some garden spots with only 3" of soil, for real!. Yes, I successfully produce food in those beds, but it takes a bit of creativity. 

Moon cycles? No. Tried it one year and didn't see any difference at all.

Companion planting? Not normally. I only have a few crops that grow among each other, and I don't even know if they are on the companion gardening charts. 

Polyculture? In some areas, yes. But not everything. My annual veggie beds are not polyculture. But the majority of my growing beds are small and are tucked into places here and there among other vegetation. But other areas are definitely polyculture. It all depends upon the crops and the location.

Korean natural farming? I use some principles, but not the system as a whole. 

Hawaiian methods? Somewhat. Old Hawaiian farming methods help quite a bit on this farm and give me ideas how to solve some issues. 

Heirloom gardening? Although I do indeed grow some heirlooms, I also grow plenty of modern varieties and a few hybrids. 

Ruth Stout method? There's a lot to be said for her methods, and I use plenty of her ideas on this farm. But my young soil isn't to the point yet where I can use solely her methods. 

No till? Other than for grass type crops, I haven't had much success with my no till experiments. Yes, I a tiller. I till between annual crops. No-till is left for the areas that include the orchards, hugelpits, and pastures.

As you have guessed, I'm not a diehard advocate of any particular gardening method. But the closest thing I'd say is permaculture. Permanent agriculture. I'm surely not 100% on board with this either. I use propane and gasoline, although not a lot. And there's that nagging tad of roundup. 

Low input, low impact......lots of my own labor. "L, L, & L". That sums it up. Soooooo, what to label it? Yeah, there's lots of people out there that insist on things having a label. Ok, how about the "li-li-lomol" method.  😉

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thoughts About Garden Mistakes

For some reason people seem to get the impression that I'm some sort of gardening and/or homesteading expert. Far from it! I'm constantly making mistakes and hopefully learning. I see no problem with making fact, I'm pretty good at it. No shame. No embarrassment. No fear of admitting it. For some reason there is a great burden of shame attached to making mistakes. Earlier in my life even the slightest mistake caused me great stress. But I've grown past much of that, at least when it comes to my homestead farming. Making mistakes in other aspects of my life can still spell disaster, but when it comes to my farm, no problem. It's something I can accept without embarrassment. 

Here's a list of common garden oriented mistakes I see being made. And I'll note which ones I've managed to make myself........
... Planting the wrong plant in the wrong place. Been there, done that. Example: planting beans in the partial shade resulted in few beans. Fail! Some plants require full sun, others prefer shade. Some want constant soil moisture, others need dry conditions. Yet others need winter chill or freezing, while tender tropical storm get killed by such low temperatures. A gardener needs to learn the individual requirements of each plant species in order to be successful. Of course, master level gardeners and landrace innovators push the envelope, testing for varieties that can survive and produce outside the normal parameters. For them it's fun and a challenge. 
... A variation of above, not knowing one's USDA growing zone. This can spell disaster in the garden. Especially for orchard trees and perennials, knowing the zone is important. Planting outside the zone limits can result in a dead plant or one that won't produce.  
... Planting plants too closely, or conversely, too far apart. Yup, I made this mistake plenty of times as I was learning. 
... Improper planting. Examples- planting seeds too deep or too shallow. Same for transplant seedlings. Did this mistake a few times. 
... Planting self sterile plant without its mate, or all female flowered plant without a pollinator. I didn't make this mistake with my orchard trees, but I did do it once with a special hybrid watermelon. 
... Planting at the wrong time of year. Well, I did try planting beans before the soil warmed up enough one winter. Failed to germinate. I don't get frost, so I can't make the mistake of planting too early in the spring. Hawaii saved my butt on that one. 
... Improper watering...too much or too little. Most learning gardeners make the mistake of only getting the surface soil wet and not soaking things down to the plant roots. I've managed not to make this mistake, but I'm not sure why. Luck, I suppose. 
... Improperly timed watering. Now this I'll admit to. I get fairly busy at times and will put off watering, hoping for rain. Sometimes it rains. Other times it doesn't and the gardens get too dry. I'm still having this problem with myself, but hope to correct it as I get better with my garden schedules. It's one of my current failings.
... Not watering in the freshly transplanted seedlings. I've avoided this mistake too. But I see lots of dead seedlings in people's gardens simply because they weren't aware of the need to baby the new transplants and keep them moist. 
... Not preparing the soil prior to planting. With the recent fad of no-till, I'm seeing more of this problem than before. So many young people tend to believe that one can simply scatter seeds on the surface of unprepared soil and expect a grand garden. It doesn't work well, if at all. I'm a believer in preparing the soil as best as one can prior to seeding. 
... Not mulching. Many gardeners don't mulch. I'm a mulcher myself. But at times I don't have enough material to meet all my needs. 
... Not fertilizing. I'm constantly using organic material as my source of soil nutrients, so in this way I'm not guilty. I'm well aware that my soil needs fertilizer on a regular basis. But I could use more than I presently have available, but at least I'm working on it. I've seen some people's gardens that were very, very sad because no fertilizer of any type was being used. 
... Not doing a soil test. Without testing, one is only blindly guessing about the availability of plant nutrients. I like to do a simple pH test several times a year plus a full spectrum lab test once a year. That once a year test is important to me because I'm constantly adding stuff and fiddling with my gardens. Perhaps once my soil matures I can cut back to every other year or every third year for a complete test. Now on the other hand, people have been doing agriculture for thousands of years without doing soil testing. That's correct. But I consider these other factors : I don't have a balanced system to start from; I'm growing veggies on land better suited to dryland early succession forest; I'm  constantly adding soil amendments. 
... Using the wrong chemical or not following instructions. I've seen people do this all the time. Amazing. I guess people just think that reading instructions isn't necessary. And when it comes to killing bugs, any pesticide will do. No wonder most chemicals require a pesticide license to use them. 
... Listening to other people without checking out the facts. Without getting into a political rant, I'll just say that I see people doing this all the time. Geez, since you've got internet access, learn to google the answers and information. You wouldn't believe the number of times I've had people tell me "my hairdresser said to plant potatoes this way", "my neighbor said to do it this way", and all the time the advice was dead wrong. Oh my. I always have an ear open for new gardening gems of knowledge, and I like to learn from others experiences, but I try to remember to check it out. Not every piece of gardening know-how that I hear is based upon reality. 
... Trying to do too much. Guilty! Yes, I'm guilty!!!!! I'm always trying to do too much, but I'm willing to accept the consequences. 
... Not enjoying the gardening effort. I don't quite understand it, but I've met a few people who tell me how much they hate gardening. How they despise weeding. How they take no pleasure in harvesting. But they still garden. No, I don't get it. This surely isn't a problem for me. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

More Benefits of Homegrown

"C" emailed me about my post talking about growing your own food - is it cheaper? She wanted my ideas about the other benefits of growing your own, other than saving money. Off hand I can think of lots of benefits I get from growing my own.......

... Freshness. You just can't beat picking dinner right before it goes into the pot. 

... Flavor. Homegrown is better than purchased when it comes to natural flavor. 

... Variety. I grow veggies that I couldn't buy, like red roma beans, okinawan spinach, nasturtium flowers, etc. 

... Satisfaction. This is a biggie for me. Sitting down to a meal that I produced myself is amazing. 
... Exercise. While working to grow food can be tiring, it is great exercise for me. Love it. 

... Mental health. There is something about working in a garden, large or small, that improves mental health. It's not just the feel-good exercise. It's something about connecting with life in general. 
... Chemical avoidance. By growing my own I can avoid the contamination, both chemical and biological, that is so persistent in our foods nowadays. 

... General health. Since commercial foods and over dependence upon simple carbohydrates are tied to the obesity problem, growing my own foods help improve my overall health. I can better control what foods are available to us. 

By the way, the pictures above are a sampling of the weekly harvests from a small community garden on my farm. Every week's harvest is different. Everyone who attended that gardening session that day shares in the harvest, having the opportunity to sample fresh picked produce. In addition to the veggies pictured, the garden also produces a selection of herbs, tender greens, and onions which participants harvest at will. So I'd like to add one more benefit of home growing - socialization. Invite a few friends over for a gardening get together and enjoy a couple of hours of pleasant socialization! Catch up on the local news & gossip, empathize with one another, share tidbits of knowledge, and relax at the end of the session with a simple lunch.