Saturday, April 29, 2017

Jackson Chameleon

Came home today to find this little fella heading out my front gate. 

He took one look at me and made a run for it. fast as a Jackson Cameleon can run, that is. 

Yes, this is an adult Jackson Chameleon, that really impresses me with its "horns". They're not native to Hawaii, but they seem to thrive in some locations here. This guy is an older male and is about a foot long in length. They're harmless, unless you're a bug of some sort. I don't have too many on the farm, but I see them occasionally. I think there really cool! 

This one was in danger of getting run over, by a car or perhaps a mower. So I moved him across the street (the original direction he was heading) and up into a tree. I hope this gives him his best chance at survival. 

If you noticed, he's changed color a bit. Picking him up really made him unhappy and defensive. So he has his 'war paint" on. Once he calms down he'll go back to his normal coloration, which is a uniform medium green. While I watched, he slowly climbed up into the tree and disappeared. Ahhh, live long and prosper, my friend. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Lilikoi Starting to Bloom

I noticed that the vines are blooming already. According to my blog notes, they didn't start blooming last year until the beginning of June. But here it is, the end of April, and they're not only blooming, but already have immature fruits setting on the vines. Did the rain two weeks ago trigger this? Or perhaps last year the vines were later than usual in starting to bloom? Don't know. Guess I'll just have to wait until next year to see what the timing will be then. 

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to fresh lilikoi again. I still have two pints of juice in the freezer, so I have enough to last me for routine use until first harvest again. Boy, I love the taste of lilikoi! 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chinese Cabbage

This week the first of the Chinese cabbage was ready to harvest. Wow, another successful crop this year. 

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't having high hopes for these guys. Even though I was watering them, the plants wilted heavily every day. And none seemed to be heading up. Then ZAP, everything came together. We had several all day light rains and the plants exploded with lots of growth. And now these past few days, several are heading. 

How grand! The variety I tried this time around is called Blues. We will see if it will be a year around producers here or just a winter one. Time will tell. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Planting Schedules - Not Yet

"D" asked me for my seed sowing schedule. Gosh gee, I'd like to see that list myself! Regretfully "D", I don't have one yet. I'm just now getting myself organized to the point that I'm developing a seeding schedule. 

Let's see what I've come up with so far....
...carrots. Every week sow enough seed to plant a 2 sq ft box. The should give me 2-3 dozen small carrots, enough to share with community gardeners plus perhaps a little extra to sell or trade. 
...lettuce. Every 2 weeks sow enough seed to plant 6 sq ft. That translates into about 100 plants. That would give me continuous cut leaf lettuce for sharing and a bit for selling. 
...cilantro & dill. Every two weeks sow seed. Right now I'm aiming for 2-3 dozen plants of each. 
...beets. Start a 1/4 bed (= 15 square feet) every other week. 
...onions. Sow a 6" starter pot of seed every week. That's about 25 plants. 
...bok choy. Sow once a month aiming for 3-4 dozen plants. 
...potatoes. Plant 10-20 seed potatoes weekly.  
...greenbeans. Sow a 3'x20' bed every other week. 
...radishes, weekly sow a short row. 

The above amounts are still in flux.  But it's getting closer to a set schedule. But as time goes on I will most likely need to increase what I'm sowing. If I can handle it, I'd like to grow extra of everything for selling. 

I've still got a lot of work to do to figure out a sowing schedule. Since I can grow things year around here, constantly reseeding is the way to go. That way I don't have to can or otherwise preserve my excess harvest. Plus I'd have a steady supply of something to sell. 

Some things I'm still working on expanding, like bananas. I'm constantly harvesting the extra keiki and replanting them in new spots. I'm constantly expanding the sweet potato beds. Any older pipinola get planted to start new plants. Taro is constantly being replanted as I have keiki. I haven't gotten to the point where I can say, that's enough. I use all these items for feeding livestock, so I could use more. 

I still need to look closely at many veggie crops to figure out their sowing schedule. I need to take into consideration the seasons (yes, Hawaii has seasons. Some veggies grow better in some seasons than others.) How quickly they mature during which season. How often to replant. Crops like -- cukes, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, chard, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and who knows what else. Squash and melons aren't on the list yet because they are difficult to grow here. I haven't figured out a successful way to do it without investing lots of time and infrastructure. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Allspice is Blooming

For joy, for happy joy, my allspice tree is blooming. This week it broke out in bloom all over. It's loaded! (Yes, little things make me happy) 

The end of every branch has a cluster of tiny, whitish, puffball type flowers. 

I have no idea if they will set seed of any sort, but time will tell. I don't know if my elevation or location is suitable for seed set, or even if I have the correct pollinator around. Do allspice trees need a second tree in the vicinity? Don't know. 

I makes me happy to see that my little tree is settled enough to bloom. I must be doing something right. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

First Decent Carrot Crop

Finally, finally, finally......carrot success! While I've successfully grown carrots elsewhere (in NJ in sandy soil), I haven't had the pleasure here on my homestead farm. But here they are.........

This variety is Danvers Half Long. I opted for a short variety on purpose because these were grown in a 10" deep cardboard box, inside one of the mini greenhouses. So they were up off the ground and protected from slugs. For soil, I mixed half Promix potting soil (recycled) and half compost enhanced garden soil. The garden soil had been sifted through 1/8th inch hardware cloth. 

Using fine potting soil stopped one of the main problems I've had with carrots in the past -- deformed roots. In the batch shown above, I got only 3 deformed carrots. Not bad, eh? In my previous carrot attempts out in my standard garden areas, just about all the roots were either deformed or tiny. 

I harvested these at 75 days post germination. I think I could have left them grow for another week or two. So next time I'll try 90 days post easy number to remember. 

Growing them in the mini greenhouse, they needed to be watered frequently compared to growing out in the ground. I watered them lightly practically every day. 

I'm just tickled to see that this experiment worked. Now I plan to sow a bit of carrots every 2 weeks so that there will be a steady supply of fresh carrots to harvest.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trying to Grow Peppers

I've never had much luck growing sweet peppers, well....not even hot peppers. But I'm not a fan of hot ones, so why bother. But the again, now that I'm serious about selling veggies, perhaps I should include some hot ones on my veggie grow list. Of course, I've got to learn to grow them successfully first, don't I.  

For some reason, the pepper plants that I started early this year are actually growing pretty good for a change. Reason? Don't know. Perhaps my soil fertility has improved to the point that peppers can grow. Perhaps it's the variety. I'm trying two that I haven't tried before. 

While the plants are hardly what I'd call robust, they are better than I've ever gotten in Hawaii before. Back in New Jersey, peppers were simple to grow. The plants were huge and bushy. Loaded with peppers. But not here. 

I plan to continue in my quest to grow these dang things. Once I get room for them in the greenhouse, I'll try a couple of varieties there. Perhaps the environment will suit them better. Plus I'll keep trying different varieties. Perhaps eventually I'll hit upon one that likes my farm. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Project Updates

1- After mining bucket after bucket of dirt, and moving what must have been tons of rocks, the new parking space for the farm truck is done and in use. Perhaps one of my crazier projects, but I survived. It was good exercise, too. 

2- Expansion of growing space by the house. Rocks removed, soil loosened, compost and manure dug in, planted. Done. The foreground is a purple greenbean called Royal Burgundy. To the right is garlic, which has been growing there since last fall. Beyond the beans are red beets and radishes, interplanted. And beyond them are potatoes being grown for seed potatoes. Along the house foundation is a greenbean called Black Valentine, a mamaki bush, and taro. 

3- Compost bins. All 12 new bins are completed and ready for use. 3 are filled and a fourth one is almost full. So I'm close to being right on schedule with this project. I aim to fill one a week. 

4- Greenhouse crops. I haven't filled more of the beds in the greenhouse, so I'm still at the original cuke and tomato plants. 

5- Pallet fence. The fencing is all disessembled and mostly cleaned up. I'm still cutting up the pieces for firewood, it's going to be another month before that's all done. 

6- Rock wall along the driveway. This is one of those jobs that depends upon the availability of resources, namely the rocks. As I get rocks from expanding my growing areas and from mining dirt, I transfer them to a rock project. This particular rock wall it almost completed. I have less than 10 foot of wall left to build. That is, of course, we don't decide to make the 90° turn up the driveway and continue to wall to the house area. Thinking about it now, that sounds like a good idea. It surely would look nice and separate the isolation pasture from the house & driveway. Right now there's just a strand of hotwire doing that. A rock wall would look so much nicer. 

As a major project gets completed, I always add one to replace it. Gosh, there's a whole string of them waiting in the side lines. While I'm still mining dirt and upgrading the pastures, I've started expanding a serious veggie growing area out in the front of the property. I've started adding 600 square feet plus looking at another section bigger than that. Yeah, I'm crazy as a loon! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Herbs, in General

"L" just asked me what herbs I'm growing. Oh boy, I have to think about that. Maybe I had better walk the garden to refresh my memory. 

Rosemary. Doesn't everybody in Hawaii grow rosemary? The bushes turn into rampant monsters, gobbling up garden space. 

Stick oregano. Not quite as aggressive as rosemary, it can become quite a large bush. 

Mexican oregano. Not good for cooking (it loses its flavor), but a pretty garnish with a wonderful aroma. 

Greek oregano. A must for my homemade spaghetti sauce. 

Basil. Lots of different types. They come in so many flavor variations. 
Above, genovese basil. Makes excellent pesto! 

I have both a basil called licorice basil, and another called anise flavored basil. I thought they'd be the same, but they're not. They have different type flowers. I bought the seed from two different seed sources. 

Ths is one of my purple colored basics. I'm trying 3 varieties...osmin, petra, opal. 

Dill. I love fresh dill. 

Chervil. Thus is my first time growing this one and I like its anise-like flavor over scrambled eggs.
My only problem with chervil so far is that I don't think I'm giving it the right amount of "fertilizer". The leaves are not uniformly bright green. So it's something I need to work on. But the flavor is really nice anyway. 

Cilantro. I'm trying several different varieties. I'm still experimenting. 
Cilantro bolts quickly in my environment. So it looks like I need to keep restarting it on a regular basis. 

Parsley....a curly type. I just started more of the flat leaf type. 

Summer savory. Great with chicken. 

Cutting celery. I have better luck with this than regular celery. The trick is to keep it moist, semi shaded, and growing quickly. 

Bay. I was gifted a small rooted cutting that's growing fine but isn't big enough to harvest from regularly yet. 

Borage. New for me this year. I plan to try some of the flowers in salads this week. 

Should I include mints? The onion family? I have chocolate mint and peppermint. Bulb onions, green onions, leeks, garlic, and chives. How about nasturtiums? Are they an herb? 

I plan to expand, try new ones. Perhaps fennel will be next. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How Many Chickens?

Question : How many chickens can fit into a nest box?
Answer : obviously 3

Today when I went to collect eggs, I found three of the girls crowded into one nest box. The funny thing is that they are using a box that most of the hens have been shunning these past few weeks. But today it's the hottest piece of real estate around. Reaching under these hens I pulled out 14 eggs!

Right next door is the nest box that had been the hot item for the past several weeks. Today it held zero eggs. Not even one. Go figure. 

Don't ask me why. I can understand the concept of a community nest. But why the medical chairs every couple weeks? If they were actually brooding fertile eggs, then they'd never hatch because the hens switch nests before the incubation period is up. 

While hens are smart in their own way, at times they aren't too clever. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Coffee Flowering Time

Once again the coffee is in full bloom. Checking back on my blog, I see that the trees are doing their thing about 3 weeks earlier than last year.

This year the coffee is acting normal again, at least so far. No sporadic odds & end blooms at weird times. No blooms and cherries at the same time. And the young trees that are blooming for their first time are right in sync with everyone else. 

Most of the trees have lots of flowers on each branch. So it looks like they are primed for a very good year. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

United Airlines

I guess most of you have already heard about the incident where an older person (a doctor who needed to see patients the next day) was physically dragged off of a United plane because he refused to be voluntary bribed and kicked off. I viewed the video and am not only appalled, but also frightened. Rather than choose to offer other customers more money until they got the paid volunteer that they were looking for, United opted to assault a paying customer who did not wish to accept the bribe. The latest report I've read states that the doctor received a concussion and laceration during the removal process. That's significantly forceful. 

Rather than discuss this incident to au nauseum, I will simply state my conclusion.......I will never fly United Airline again. Period. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Filling In After Mining Dirt

This is the most recent soil mining area, a spot that I'm turning into a parking space for the pickup truck. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the giant hole (which was 9'x16' and 2' to 3' deep) is almost filled in. Just a small spot by the white bucket still needs some rocks. Just a few more buckets of rocks and the area is ready for a topping of gravel. 

This is just one example of what I can do to put a spot back into use after mining the soil. Oh by the way....the answer is "yes". Yes, I have that many rocks on my farm that I can use as fill. I save the big and pretty rocks for stone walls, with the rest being used like this -- fill. 

Other past mined pits were used to make growing beds. Some holes were filled in as a hugelpit....woody material on the bottom, organic debris atop that, and a cap of compost, soil, and mulch. These pits make super growing beds. I currently have bananas, turmeric, sweet potatoes, and pipinolas growing in such beds. 

Another pit I've been using for organic debris that I don't deem fit for veggie growing areas. I'll layer in dog poo and kitty box tootsie rolls with grass clippings and a bit of soil. This is also how I deal with donkey and sheep manure the day after they are dewormed, so that most of the residual dewormer goes into the pit. Once the pit is mostly filled, I'll plant a tree there. (I think I've mentioned this before, but at my age, it's news to me!) It's a good way to mine soil from a smallish pit and turn it into a tree growing spot. 

To tell you the truth, I never thought I'd be mining soil until I moved to this place. Wherever I lived before, soil was a given. It was everywhere. Nothing like living on the side of an active volcano to make one appreciate real soil that you could sink a shovel into. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Extra Water Storage

During dry periods, five days a week I pick up a half ton of water as I pass the county water taps. Sometimes I can use this water right away. Other things I need to store it for future use. While I have large catchment tanks (2 by the house and 1 by the barn), there are situations where I find it far more convenient to store the water in small batches close to where I intend to use it. Thus a small tank by the clothes washer stores water for the next couple of laundry loads. A small tank by the pasture stores enough to reload the stock tank when needed. Glass gallon jugs in the kitchen store drinking and cooking water. 

Down by the greenhouses I store extra water in trashcans and old milk jugs so that it's handy. Most of the time I collect enough rainwater for the greenhouses, but when things are dry I need to resort to the water I tote in. Those milk jugs will last for about six months of use, then they go off to the recycle bin and get replaced with fresh ones. 

One note about using trashcans.......either keep them filled to the brim, totally empty, or keep a lid on them. Otherwise critters tend to get caught in them and drown. 

While I'd love to have those 300 gallon totes around to store water in, they are far too pricy to justify their use. Around here they go for around $300 each. Ouch. I'm told that on the mainland they can be had for $50. Wow. It's by far cheaper here to buy 9-10 trashcans than one tote to hold the same amount of water. 

Water storage, in small amounts, can be creative. I've seen people use 5 gallon buckets, old Tupperware storage bins, all sorts of jugs and bottles, old coolers. One fella is using old dead chest freezers (they're free!), closing the lids to prevent evaporation and mosquito problems. Another used discarded wood pallets to make the right sized box to slip a heavy duty black trash bag into it, which was then filled with water and tied shut. At one mini farm the people made holes in the ground, used plastic sheeting as a liner, then filled it with water. It worked for them. 

I suppose it comes down to how much money one has to spend. I've seen farms around here with gigantic reservoirs that costs tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands. Other farms have multiple tanks at a few thousand a piece. Multiple totes work for others, at $300 each. But many small homestead farms or mini ag operations don't have that sort of cash available. Owners have to think outside the box in order to come up with affordable water storage systems. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I'm concerned. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Dill !

A Greek omelet topped with fresh dill........MY dill !!! , being served at one of our local restaurants here. 

And let me tell you, it was yummy! Yes, fresh dill makes a huge difference. 

But it also makes me proud of myself. I'm not a natural salesman. So actually getting my produce into a commercial establishment is a big deal for me. 

So far the restaurant is taking dill, basil, cilantro, chervil, parsley, and daikon. Plus they're looking for more. Hot-diggity-dog. That's pretty cool, if I do say so myself. 

I'm going to focus on planting extra for the restaurant while still growing the things I have been for my trading network. I don't wish to let my trading system die out. It's working really well. 

Another outlet is in the works. I've been invited to set up a retail spot at a local coffee venue. It would be a casual affair, just a tent and table set up between the parking area and the picnic tables. A nice laid back way of connecting with some of the locals. Last year a person was selling their carrots there and it was popular. He's no longer doing that and the coffee people would like to have local fresh veggies being offered at their location once again. So I'm gearing up to try it. Oooo, my head is spinning. People actually want my veggies. That is so amazing. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Compost - Looking at the Disappearing Act Again

I can no longer count on my fingers and toes the number of new gardeners who have told me that compost is a waste of money or time, because it only disappears (a variation : the rain washes it away into the lava). People misinterpret what's going on. As organic material decomposes, it's moisture content is released, thus leaving behind just the organic mass. The moisture in plants is a large part of the volume. The more juicy the material, the greater the loss of volume. 

Above is pictured my newest compost pile. Just two weeks ago I had filled it to the very top and capped it with cardboard. I have used plastic coated cardboard boxes which would help retain the compost moisture and heat better. Eventually they will be removed and discarded, thus not be incorporated in with the compost. But in the meantime they will help keep things evenly moist. 

In just two weeks the pile has gone down 12 inches. No, I haven't jumped on it. This has happened on its own with no outside help. As the organic material heats up and rots, it loses moisture. Hot moist air rises, so even with the cap, much escapes the pile. Plus, air spaces in the weeds, grass, and other additives disappear as the material collapses and compacts. This is totally normal and to be expected. 

By the time I harvest this compost in 3-4 months, I fully expect the pile to be only half of its original volume. Once the compost is added to the garden soil, it will continue to decompose and lose moisture, continuing to also lose volume. 

Rest assured that this is normal, to be expected, and actually a good sign that everything is working fine. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Composting Shredded Paper

"G" wrote in, asking if I use shredded paper. Short answer....yes. I personally don't generate a lot of shredded paper myself, but I do have people who donate it to me. And I appreciate getting it. I often dig it into the soil of my flower gardens. I tried once using it as a surface mulch but it had two drawbacks for me. First, the winds tended to blow it around, and second, if wet down, it formed a mat that rain had difficulty penetrating. Thus I prefer to dig it in. 

Above, a compost bin. 

Besides digging it right into the soil, I also use it in the compost bins. It's considered a "brown" ingredient, meaning that it doesn't contribute nitrogen. So it is added along with either fresh green grass clippings or animal manures. It can absorb quite a bit of water, so I make sure to wet it down when it's added to a pile. 

"G" also asked if shredded paper is really 100% clean and safe to use. I can't say that it is. Looking at things realistically, there's hardly anything that is 100% "clean" nowadays. Not the air, the rain, the soil, nothing. Man has contaminated and changed the entire world. And there's not much us little folk can do about it, especially since some of our chemical exposure is mandated by laws and regulations!  While I don't intentionally add lots of toxic chemicals to my gardens, I'm not 100% chemical free. As I've stated in previous blog posts, I take what I deem to be a reasonable and realistic approach. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Apple Trees in Bloom

Went to check on my apple trees and discovered that they have blooms on them. Oh how that brought back memories of New Jersey! There were lots of orchards in my area, peach, pear, nectarine. Those apples were great. 

I find the apples grown in Hawaii are acceptable but nothing to write home about. And unless they're grown high on the slopes of Mauna Loa or Mauna Kea, gardeners here are limited to low chill varieties only. I've only found two types being offered for sale here, and I've got one of each. 

Photo above, these are flowers on my Anna tree. This tree is still quite young, so I only let it produce one apple last year....just so I could say that I got an apple. Yup, a silly ego thing, I'm sure. This year I'll let it keep 3 apples and see what happens. 

Growing apples at lower elevations (I'm at 2400', which is a lot lower than the orchards on Mauna area), is quite difficult due to the Chinese rose beetle. Those beetles can destroy the leaves practically overnight. I haven't yet found a real effective way of controlling them. I truly wish there was a bt product that targeted them. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

First Greenhouse Crops

I've been real eager to get something growing in my new greenhouses. But alas, I haven't finished filling the growing boxes with dirt. But I've started at least.

I've been mining dirt specifically for this project. To the mined dirt I've added 25% compost and mixed it in. That's quite a bit, but the mined dirt doesn't look very fertile. I'm hoping that this ratio of compost to soil will work. Time will tell. 

Above -just planted

I've filled about 6' of the new bed. My planting fingers got itchy, so I planted 6 cucumbers and 10 patio tomato plants. Yeah, I'm pushing it. But boy does it feel good seeing something green in the greenhouse. 

I figure that the cucumbers can be a vertical crop, trellised up the sides of the greenhouse. The tomatoes will be a horizontal crop, spreading out to cover the soil. That's the plan at least. 

Above -ten days later 

My first baby cuke! 

Over the next week or two I'll keep mixing soil and adding plants. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Potting Soil

Recently a person quizzed me about what I'm using for potting soil to start seeds. Over the past two years I've used a number of different mediums, but currently this past couple of months it's been Pro-Mix BX. Why? Because that's what I can get a hold of locally that actually works well for me. The "working well" is the important part. 

When I first started growing seedlings I tried an assortment of homemade potting mixes... soil
...sifted compost
...volcanic cinder
...cinder & peat moss
...peat moss
Each had a drawback that didn't work well for me. I'd say that the cinder & peat moss worked best, but the cinder I had was too coarse. I needed something finer. And the pH was way off, so it only good for starting seeds. 

I could have kept experimenting but I needed to start getting serious about growing food. So I looked to commercial potting soils, something with an established track record. By shear luck I stumbled upon several bales of Pro-Mix that someone wanted to sell. I jumped at it. I was able to get a pallet of Pro-Mix MP, which is an organic version. The basic difference between BX and MP is that BX contains vermiculite and a wetting agent (MP doesn't), plus MP uses about 30% coconut coir in place of spagnum moss. MP cost significantly more than BX, and another drawback for me is that it dries out quickly. I had to water seedlings daily, even on cloudy days. When I ran out of MP I looked around and settled on Pro-Mix BX, the version that my local Ace Hardware sells. 

BX is not considered "organic", I guess because it contains a wetting agent. This doesn't bother me, because as I see it, organic gardeners use Dawn dish detergent as their wetting agent and it surely isn't organic either. I amazes me how gardeners that are so wrapped up in being organic will turn a blind eye to using Dawn, cardboard, newspaper, old carpet, regular garden hoses, plastic rain barrels, etc. All these have traces of chemical contamination and aren't organically "clean". But as I said, it doesn't bother me. Realistically, I can't totally avoid chemical contamination in my life. Not even the air I breathe is chemical free. I just try to be reasonable about things, not fanatical. 

So my current potting soil is Pro-Mix BX. 

Some day when I have the time to fiddle around, I plan to come up with a homemade version. In the end, I'd like to be more self-reliant and have my homestead provide for itself the best it can. I have access to homegrown fresh spagnum moss, though I don't know if that is something to use. I'd have to mix it with something else. I also could gather lots and lots of coconuts locally, which couod be made into coir. But I would have to figure out how to do that. I have volcanic cinder which I would need to clean, sterilize, and sift. I have compost & garden soil which would also need to be sifted and sterilized (fungal diseases abound in the tropics). And I have easy access to lava sand. It's a lot to be figured out. As I said, I don't have the time for that right now. But my gut instinct says that lava sand or volcanic cinder,  along with fine high nutrient compost might be the ticket. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Using Pine Needles

I have a tree on the place that sheds "needles" like a pine tree. It's called an Australian Ironwood tree. Because of the dense mat of needles, nothing much grows under one of these trees. But it makes harvesting these needles quite easy. 

Why harvest them? Why not? It's a useable resource that my farm provides. And it's renewable, to boot. 

I usually collect a trashcanful whenever I need them. So what are they use for? 

While there can be many uses to choose from, I opt to use them to line the chickens' nest boxes. The birds accept them with no problem. And they don't eat them, as they do grass clippings. They don't kick them out as they do wood chips. They actually appear to like them. It keeps the eggs cleaner as long as I refresh them after each rain. Yes, the girls can muck up a nestbox pretty quickly with mud after a rain. It sticks to their feet and I haven't been able to convince them to wipe their feet off before entering their house. Hey, they tell me that's what the pine needles are for! Ok, ok. I'll just give you fresh ones after each rain. I'll go get more for you. <<<sigh....slave to chickens>>>

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Dirty Chickens

"B" contacted me to comment that my chickens were "dirty". Yup, I agree. If you've ever had chickens in a pen, you'll know that they don't use toilet paper and little commodes, they don't wash their feet, they like to dig up the dirt and kick it around. They poo while sleeping, which means that there will be quite a bit of manure beneath their roosting spots in the morning. And if any of them slept in a nestbox, that box will need fresh bedding. It happens because they don't wear diapers, nor are they potty trained. When it rains, they will walk through mud puddles, tromping mud into the nestboxes. Oh my, chickens surely lack manners and social grace. 

My hens spend most of their day is a large roofed pen (10' by 30'). This keeps them safe from dogs, hawks, and mongooses. It means that I can find the eggs in the nest boxes rather than under bushes helter-skelter around the farm. The pen protects them from bad weather. It allows me to harvest manure for the compost bins. The hens run free to scavenge bugs and lizards in the late afternoon for a few hours when it is relatively safe. I'm usually working in the area and can keep an eye out for predators. If they ran loose all day instead of being penned, then their poo would be on the ground someplace around the farm instead of under a perch, in a nestbox, or on the pen litter. Plus the hens would be in danger of being killed by predators. They'd still be poo-ing, but it wouldn't be as noticeable.....except for on the bottom of one's shoes. Yup, I'd be sure to step in it. By the way, I have feral turkeys and pheasants that visit the farm daily, leaving poo piles behind. I have to keep a diligent eye out to avoid piles. 

Yes, chickens can be "dirty". Animals poo and that's a fact of life. It's not something that upsets or worries me. Unlike some commercial farms, my birds are healthy, have no parasites, nor harbor dangerous pathogens that I am aware of. I don't fear working around my flock. I don't mind them being chickens and dirty-ing up the place. Besides, their manure is valuable. 

If one considers poo to be toxic waste, then farming livestock surely isn't for you. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Multi-Function Chickens -- Permaculture in Action

"D" commented about my permaculture solution to the deep pit beside my driveway. Let me state that I wasn't seeking a permaculture solution per se, but just a sensible solution. And the hugelpit fit the need. Long before I heard the term permaculture or hugelkuktur, I called this project my biotrash pit. In fact, I still call it a biotrash pit. 

My chicken set up is another permie type example of what goes on around here. The chickens eat the farm waste from the gardens. Grass clippings from around the farm goes into the pen for bedding, of which the chickens eat quite a bit of it. The bedding gets harvested regularly and used as fertilizer for the plants. The chickens also get let out to forage almost daily, thus controlling the bug and lizard population. They also eat the occasional mouse they come upon, thus contribute to rodent control. 

Besides fertilizer, the girls give me eggs and meat. Nice bonus. 

And when I let a rooster live in with them each spring, they brood and hatch out new chicks for the flock. 

I didn't create this system solely because it was a permaculture system. No, I did it because it made efficient sense. It's a nice homestead "circle" .....crop waste + bugs + grass fed to chickens produces eggs & meat & baby chicks, which produce fertilizer, which is used to produce veggies & fruits, which produce crop waste, which gets fed to the chickens. 

The homestead hosts other examples of circles and stacked functions. It's just the way it runs on a self reliant homestead. The sheep-donkey-pastures-food forest is another example with the system supporting the livestock and providing human food too. Again, an example including both horizontal and vertical food and resource plants. 

Not only circles and stacking, but interconnected webs. They are all variations on the same ideas. Example : Ponds get runoff from greywater filter systems, ponds support plant life and fish, excess pond water (with fish derived nutrients) goes to garden beds, excess pond plants go to the compost bins, pond water and compost go to produce food, which produce waste to feed livestock (and compost bins), livestock manure used for compost/fertilizer. Compost goes back to the garden beds. Worms from compost bins feed the fish. Aahh, the interconnectedness of all things. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Undocumented Immigrants

Last Thursday I had a few undocumented immigrants sneak onto my farm. I offered them sanctuary, but probably due fear of being deported if discovered, they moved on. Perhaps looking for a better place to live unnoticed? 

What the heck am I talking about?    ....  Guinea hens! 

Above, hiding in the shadows, I spied three vigilant Guinea hens sneaking up the road. On edge and leery of my truck, I slowly drove by them. In the distance you can see my entrance gate. Pulling through, I left it open as an invitation to the birds. 

Hours went by and I forgot about them until I heard a racket right outside my front door. I caught one of our farm cats, Crookshank (above), heading over to check out the intruders. The cat caused the G hens to spook and break out into a loud racket. If you've ever heard a Guinea hen, you know how loud that can be. And it's quite a distinctive alarm noise. In fact, I'd love to have it as my phone's ringtone. It surely would turn heads in a crowd, don't ya think? 

Ok, now there's four birds. I was quite surprised to see that they came all the way up to the house. I offered them birdseed, but they weren't impressed. I threw about some torn up bread, which they also said "no thank you" to. So I let them be to see what would develop. 

That night they slept in a tree by the chicken pen. In the morning before I left for Maui for three days, I saw a group of FIVE Guinea hens cruising around the front pasture area. I bid them goodbye as I left and wished them luck, but first left numerous piles of birdseed here and there. 

I was hoping they would stay. I hadn't the foggiest idea where they came from, but most likely they had been ditched on the road. It's a common enough occurance here. I didn't know of any neighbor having Guinea hens. But when I returned home on Monday, they were gone. Moved on. Hopefully they found a place that suited them. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Permaculture -- Stacking Functions

I'm not totally a permaculture farm, but I incorporate a lot of permie principles in what I'm doing. One is called "stacking functions". My driveway biotrash pit is one example. 

This area was a giant deep hole alongside a stretch of the driveway. When the driveway was originally created, soil and rock was excavated and used to build the road, leaving behind a pit that could have easily swallowed my pickup truck. Over the course of time I gradually filled in the hole with chunks of trees, cardboard, weeds, brush trimmings, name. As long as it was biodegradable farm waste, it went into the hole, thus earning the title "biotrash pit"....... rechristened "hugelkuktur pit". Yes, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was building a hugel pit. 

So where does the stacking function idea come into play? The hugel pit is now used for an ideal cite for growing bamboo, which supplies me with building poles. 

And banana trees, which produce bananas for us to eat, young trees for livestock feed, and green waste for compost and mulch.

Under the trees I have sweet potatoes growing, which will provide food for us and the animals. 

Plus turmeric, which is just starting to sprout in the earliest planted spots. Eventually much of the hugel pit will be producing turmeric because it is a shady location. 

Another function, the pit captures and absorbs any rain runoff from the driveway. I don't have much runoff on the farm except from the driveway, so the pit is perfect in collecting and storing this water -- to the benefit of the bamboo, bananas, turmeric, and sweets. 

Finally, some day I see this area being mined for its soil. 

So the stacked factions are: 
...captures rain runoff, prevents flooding
...processes farm waste
...produces its own mulch
...supports food plants (human & animal) without the need to irrigate or fertilize
...produces a building resource (bamboo)
...eventually will be available for soil mining, if needed.

The plants utilize both horizontal and vertical space. Pretty nifty. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Male Papaya Tree Update

Ok, it's been awhile since the male papaya tree suddenly, out of the blue, produced some fruits. It was quite a surprise. So I've been casually watching to see what developed.  

Two of the smaller fruits aborted while still quite small. And this week I noticed one of the remaining fruits changing color. Yesterday it got to looking rather ripe. Not a large papaya, but I'm just curious if there are seeds inside. 

Got up this morning with the intent of harvesting and tasting this one. But alas, a rat got to it first. 

I found it laying on the ground, well feasted upon. But lo and behold, I could see seeds inside.  

Since these initial fruits were produced, there has been no new ones. Just a profusion of male flowers, but no more female ones. I have no idea what triggered this tree to do this. 

Anyway, the tree is now in the way of where hubby wants to park his car. Since the tree is male, and I have plenty of other papaya trees, this one will go. Tomorrow out comes the chainsaw.