Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Different Kinds Of Composting

I'm a big believer in using compost. But unlike some people, I don't advocate just one composting method. Depending upon the situation, I think just about all composting methods have virtue. 

"F" recently asked me how do I make compost. Honestly, I use a variety of methods. So I couldn't give him a clean cut, short answer. Some of the methods I use widely vary because I'm looking for a specific result. Other times I use the quickest, simplest methods because I lack time to fuss with making compost. 

Simply digging it in....
When I only have a few small things for the compost bins, I won't bother to take them all the way down to the bin area. Plus I don't wish to store them up by the kitchen because of the plethora of vinegar flies here in the tropics. So I'll just go out to the nearest garden, dig a hole, and bury whatever it is. Usually it's a few coffee grounds, macnuts shells, orange peels, that's sort of kitchen waste that the chickens don't want. 

When preparing a bed for taro, I like to make trenches between where the taro rows will be. Then I fill those trenches with material to cold compost - ground up brush, kitchen waste, garden waste, livestock manure, shredded paper, coffee cherry pulp,  that sort of stuff. Then I put the soil back in place over the compostables and plant the taro. Over time, the material composts down, providing nutrients to the taro. 

Cold piles....
These piles aren't really cold, but they don't get hot enough to kill pathogens. Thus I term them cold composting. These piles are "vegan" in that they contain no manure. It's usually weeds, ground brush trimmings, banana leaves,  yellowing sugar cane leave, waste fruits. These piles tend to sit for several months before I need to use them. 

Hot piles.....
These are my workhorses. Importantly, I use my pallet boxes to make this compost. That's so they don't dry out and all spots get hot. They are also "lidded" with cardboard to retain heat and moisture. I can regulate the moisture level by adjusting the cardboard lid. They process material quickly, often having useable compost in as little as 30 days. But I prefer to let them continue to compost for 2-3 months if I don't need to use it immediately. I make them by layering ground brush and grass (the lawnmower is the tool I use), livestock manure, and any kitchen and garden waste the chickens won't eat. Chicken pen litter goes into the hot compost bins. These piles can also process dead animals and slaughtered waste, but I don't often have that available. 

These piles are turned every 30 days if not used in the gardens. That causes them to reheat up. I often have to add water to the material when I turn the pile in order to bring it up to a sufficient moisture level. Turning a pile (I simply fork it into the next bin) takes work, but it's better than joining a gym. 

These are stay-in-place compost piles made by filling in a pit or hole in the ground. This is where much of my coarse, non-ground up material goes. Plus I can utilize woody material here.....tree trucks and branches not suitable for firewood. It's also a great place for clean cardboard. Because I'm adding quite a bit of woody material, as opposed to green weeds and grass clippings, I have to keep in mind to add a nitrogen source. Manure, grass clippings, and urine do the job nicely. Once the pit is filled in, I wait about 6 months, then go back to tromp it down then tup it up. The material will have rotted down about half its volume. So I'll refill the pit. After another 6 months I will plant bananas or fruit trees. 

Other methods I no longer use: 
... Sheet composting. This is simply laying compostables right onto the soil surface, then planting into it. Often people use the term lasagna gardening. It works, but it doesn't fit well with my soil and situation. 
...Open piles. The tropical wind and sun dries these out quickly. Plus the outside 6" doesn't compost at all. 
,,,Rotary bin. These cannot produce the volume of compost I need. The main drawback even for small gardeners is that the bins get really heavy and are difficult to turn. But if composting small amounts, they really work great. I highly recommend them for the small gardener. 
...Worm bin. These work for a lot of people. But again, I need lots of compost. Plus I don't have a lot of extra material to devote to the worms. My chickens need the edibles. So for the right situation, they work great. It's just not for my situation at the moment. 

Methods I don't use.....
....Silage. This is a method where everything is put into a sealable bag, such as a black trash bag.  Then it's allowed to sit for months. I've only tried this method with oak leaves while living in NJ. Over the winter the leaves rotted down to a black mass. Some bags were too wet and gloppy. Others too dry. I never perfected the method. I once tried a bag of grass clippings and my advice is...don't. It turns into a smelly, gloppy, anaerobic foul mess. 
.....Anaerobic tea. I hear of people filling a trash can with grass and weeds, topping it up with water, then allowing it to sit a week before using that water as a tea to water their plants. I'm leery. It's an anaerobic process, growing the wrong microbes for a healthy garden soil. Thus I haven't taken the time to experiment with it. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Let's talk "winterbottom".....Hawaiian style. First of all, I don't think that the term winterbottom is found in the dictionary. I grew up hearing my grandmother use the term, referring to the time of winter where the temperatures are the lowest, the freeze is the worst, and the indoor plants look blah. Only her poinsettias and Christmas cactus looked happy. Not only that, but people looked glum too. She always considered the last 3 weeks of January and the first week of February to be winterbottom. Everything was down, dismal, lacking vigor. My grandmother spent part of her teens with the Amish, so I'm guessing that's where she learned the term. 

Just the other day I mentioned the phenomena of winterbottom during a conversation with an old mainland friend. She practically split her gut laughing. "Winterbottom?", she said, "You don't get winter in Hawaii!" Not true. While we don't have winters like back on the mainland, the plants are fully aware that it's wintertime. 

Winterbottom on my farm occurs from late December to early February. The entire month of January is a complete wipe out when it comes to productivity. Most plants just sit there. Very little growth. 

How do the plants know? Chilly nights. Cooler afternoons. And most important, shorter sunlight hours. With the chilly nights and cool afternoon temps, the plants simply can't get the heat units they require for growth. It doesn't matter that it's not freezing. Not enough warmth combined with not enough sunlight equals little or no growth. 

Some plants suffer worse during winterbottom than others. So.....here's what happening on this particular farm.
...green beans. Those seeded in December are stunted and showing obvious unhappy damage. This is a variety that has preformed well for me in past Decembers, but this winter has been dreary, moist, very little sun, low afternoon temperatures. So the two December sowings are crop failures to be fed to the livestock. I've held off reseeding until last week, where I optimistically tried again. I'll sow another bed next week and hope for improved conditions. 
...lettuce, radishes, Chinese greens, peas - slow growing but otherwise ok. Where I can harvest greens starting at 21 days during the rest of the year, greens need 30-45 days during winterbottom for their first picking. Radishes can be harvested 21 days during summer, but are taking 35-45 days right now. 
...papayas. Nothing is ripening on the main farm, but I'm seeing ripening down on my seed farm where it is warmer, drier, and sunnier. 
...pipinolas. They're at a stand still, and the older vines are yellowing. 
...tomatoes. The young plants are just sitting their. Their color is dull. The slightly older plants that had set fruit are sitting there with green fruits since mid December. Nothing is ripening. 
...peppers, herbs, potatoes, bananas, etc are all simply sitting in limbo awaiting sun and warmth. 
...pasture grasses. Only the Guinea grass seems to be doing much growth at all. Everything else is pretty much at a standstill. As a result I'm supplementing the sheep with hay cubes. 

This year seems to be the most intense winterbottom I've yet experienced in Hawaii. While the seed farm isn't effected as badly, the main farm has been seeing little sun and mostly cool afternoons. Lots of nights have been in the 50s. 

I'm anticipating winterbottom to break in mid February, so February 1st is when I'll till the gardens and plant the beds. From then on I should be busy growing stuff again. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Busy Around The Farm

You'd think that winter would be a time to rest, but that's not the case around this place. This person has been really busy being a farmer lately. Mowing grass for mulch. Chopping up brush for compost. The never ending manure clean up. Sowing seeds. No complaints.....I love working the farm. 

These past two weeks have been dreary and wet, but that hasn't stopped me from starting plenty of seeds in the greenhouses, and planting cuttings. And although I get wet, I've been clearing brush and weeds, shredding it up for mulch and compost. I'm gathering 6 to 8 trashcanfuls of debris a day and running it over with the mower to chop it. After a week and a half, I've had to take a break. My right hand is getting sore from over work. Guess I need to practice more using the left hand, eh? 

I just finished putting together 4 more pallet grow boxes......this is after harvesting the last of the yacon that was in 3 boxes that were rotting apart. I dismantled those 3 old pallet boxes and discovered they were too far gone to even be used as firewood. So into the bio trash pit (hugelpit) they went. Judging by the amount of yacon starts I have, I'll need to make 3-4 more additional grow boxes to accommodate all the yacon for next season. Luckily I have 12 full boxes of "half-baked" compost I can use to fill the new grow boxes.  Hope to have them done, filled, and planted within the next 2 weeks. Then it's back to making more fresh compost! 

In my quest to gather brush and weeds for composting, I've opened up some areas that I will put starter gardens in. I'll plant my extra turmeric and sweet potato starts, giving that soil its first garden task. Yes, the soil won't be very fertile and it will have plenty of rocks, but just the fact that something is planted and growing will help kickstart soil improvement. To help the young plants, I'll use a mulch that incorporates livestock manures. I won't be eating these starter crops, so I won't have to worry about any possible pathogens due to the manure. Any turmeric harvested will be used as seed stock for replanting. And sweet potatoes harvested (if there are any) will go into the chicken slop & glop. 

I've spent some evenings browsing the seed catalogs, creating fantasy gardens in my mind. Now this has been fun! Hubby likes to create fantasy sports teams and fantasy house floor plans......I'm into veggies. My fantasy gardens are full of all sorts of exotic things, but when I comes time to fill out the order form, practicality will rule and my real garden won't be so dreamy. But the daydreams are great! 

This past week I turned up enough rocks to finish the rock wall that's been being worked on for months now. Ah-ha, another project completed. It feels soooooooo good! But I've ended up with a pile of left over rocks, so I'm already eyeing up where the next rock wall will be. Most likely the other side of the driveway. 

Just the past few days I ripped out a small (4' by 8') taro bed, divided the plants, and replanted them elsewhere. Why? Hubby wants the spot to put a temporary solar panel rack. Yes, I have to admit it is the ideal location for them, but that taro wasn't ready to be harvested. By alas, out it came and got moved to another location. No edible crop, but at least it doesn't die, and in fact, it had plenty of young keikis to plant. So I've increased the population for that variety but I'll have to wait another year to sample it for the dinner table. 

This week I also worked on getting ready for lambing.......any day now the first ewes should be having their lambs. Built a nursery pen for a tiny feral piglet, about three weeks old. And drew up plans for building another chicken pen. Yup, I never seem to run out of projects. Isn't that great?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Future Farms ??

"W" asked me my opinion as to the future of farming. Will the small farm continue to exist? Will homestead farms still exist? 

Wow, I'm no expert. And frankly, I really don't care. You see... I'm old, have no children, thus I have no grandchildren to be worrying about their future. And a shift in farming really won't effect my lifestyle. So I suppose "W", you're asking the wrong person. I'm not an economist, agronomist, nor politician. 

"W" wanted to know the answers to these questions because he hopes to follow in my footsteps some day. Well, let's reaffirm that I do indeed know there are can be significant benefits to this homesteading lifestyle. Regardless of how the future develops, I believe there will always be those who will embrace a homesteading. So even if food in the United a states is produced by mega and corporate farms, I believe that homesteading is here to stay. Small farms may become scarce as hens' teeth, but there will always be independent souls out there living off the land. 

I read that ag economists predict a future that holds a shift to mega corporate farms. According to what I've read in a variety of publications, government agencies are predicting a shift of the main population to urban settings....rural population goes down, urban population goes up. The vast majority of small farmers and homesteaders will disappear. It's just a continuation of the trend of the past several decades. For the past 100 years, small farms have been gradually morphing into larger farms. Initially, as farmers retired or went bankrupt, neighboring farmers bought them out. Lately the shift has been to corporations buying and consolidating. The government does not support small farms in the way that large farms are, thus in general, small farms are financially being starved out. 

Other countries have demonstrated that effective ag and increased food production can be achieved via intensive methods, including greenhouse/hydroponic production. Small farms are common. Will the world be able to produce enough food? I think, yes, at least for the next 50 years. But at a price. In the USA, the number of small farms will gradually keep going down. Mega corporations will more and more control our food. I don't know what the predictions are for the rest of the world, but the US will be up to the challenge. But after 50 years, I have no confidence. With the world's population growth totally uncontrolled, who knows what things will be like. In addition, useable water will become a crisis, both for ag and residual use. 

Personally I'm not ready to disappear, or move to an urban area. I might be a dinosaur and due for extinction, but I ain't dead yet! Personally I want to feel connected to the land and nature. I want to eat naturally grown food that is chemical free. I want the satisfaction of being semi-independent, or as independent as feasible. So living in an urban condo, eating factory farmed and processed food, in a world of unnatural chemicals isn't my idea of wholesome, happy living. Been there, done that, ran away from it!  Egads, they're talking about future food being grown in laboratory-like settings. Artificial lab grown meat. Tissue culture edible plant material. Not my idea of fine dining. 

I predict that there will always be the "hippies", "back to earthers", and independence lovers. Their numbers will stay small, just as they are today and have been all along. I don't see the countryside returning to pre-industrial revolution farming. I do believe that mega farms and intensive ag is the path of the future, at least for the US. 

"W", if you want to have a homestead farm and be reasonably independent, go for it! If you want to be a small acreage farmer, go for it. As long as you develop your skills, cultivate your market, choose the right location, opt for a simple lifestyle, I believe that you can make a living. And I believe that there will be others doing the same thing. Some will use low tech methods, others will go with intensive farming. But the small farm will continue to exist, even though it may be only a very small percentage of US agriculture. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sunsets and Moonrise

We get some killer views here in Hawaii. The best thing is they don't need to be photoshopped! Good thing, because I'm not very tech savvy and don't have a clue how to use photoshop. So what you see is what we got. 

Above, a sunset from Lahaina, Maui. 

Below, a sunset taken by a friend's camera.....

This one was so incredibly awesome. Hard to believe it wasn't photoshopped, but I saw this sunset too and was blown away by it. The vog and heavy air moisture was just perfect for producing incredible colors. 

And not to say that the sunsets are the only pretty thing around here, so here's a moon rise taken from the southern most point in the USA.....

Not bad considering it was a cellphone that took this photo. In real life, the moon was beautiful. We were down at South Point looking for barn owls. Didn't have any luck finding owls, but the full moon was incredibly romantic. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dealing With Wind

Bring on the tradewinds.....I love 'em. But these past few days it's tradewinds on steroids! Blustery strong winds 24 hours a day. I find myself waking up every hour all night long due to gusts and things being blown into the metal roof. And during the day, I deal with the result of these winds. Downed branches and twigs....

Luckily, no downed trees of significance. Just small ones that need to be cleared off fences and buildings, out of garden areas, off the driveway. 

Anything that's not fastened down I can find just about anywhere and everywhere. Buckets. Feed bags. Plastic pots. The wind took a stack of roofing panels and strew them about. Trashcans ended up along fence lines. I thought I had everything pretty well tethered down, but the wind proved me wrong. 

The livestock weathers the wind fine. But the plants can't tuck themselves away into a protected area. Banana trees get shredded, but actually recover quite rapidly. 

The short vined sweet potatoes do ok, but the vigorous long vined ones suffer. Their vines get ripped up, swirled about and actually knotted. In the process many leaves get torn off. 

Above, this was a lush looking sweet potato patch 4 days ago. Ah, no longer the case. 

Blustery winds have a tendency to dry out the soil and dehydrate plants, leaving them droopy. This taro plant shows the effect, but will recover. It's leaves are being jerked this way and that. 

Heavy winds used to cause assorted damage on this farm, but over time I've learned to prepare for it. Trellises are reinforced to withstand wind. The roofs on various buildings are securely fastened. Shed doors are kept latched closed. Tarps are well attached. It took a lot of lessons, but I finally learned. Not even a ladder can be left propped up beside the barn. It will surely be blown over. 

The one thing I've learned to watch is the solar panels. Not just for damage, but for debris. In wind like we're now having, the panels get coated in ohia leaves, flowers, and twigs. Each day I take 5 minutes to hose them off. 

Above .... Left is the debris accumulated overnight. Right, I just rinsed them off. I'm rinsing them each morning right now. I'll be glad when this wind tames down to just gentle trades. You'd think that this wind would keep the panel blown clean, but it's not the case. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Am I Prepared?

Missile alert ! 

Things sometimes get interesting, that's for sure! I've been looking at our situation and trying to evaluate just how prepared we were if it had been the real thing. 

Water - we have 2 large covered catchment tanks of water which we can easily disconnect the intake pipes (rain gutters) to help protect the water. We have 35 gallons of emergency ready-to-drink water stored under the house. Plus we keep 5-15 gallons in the house for regular use. We also have 1 large uncovered catchment tank that we use for agriculture, plus numerous ponds with water that can be used for livestock. So on the water situation, we're covered. 

People Food - we have a decent supply of back up food stored in the pantry and freezer (assuming that we have electricity- otherwise we eat out of the freezer first), although the menu will be boring after a week. Safely eating out of the gardens will depend upon the wind and rain patterns. 

Heating fuel - plenty of firewood stockpiled.

Animal food - enough to last a few weeks before the cats and dogs have to start eating something other than kibble, assuming of course that available pet food in the stores might be an issue. 

Medical supplies - well stocked, including hubby's prescription meds. 

Gasoline - this will be an issue. But we will be in the same boat with everyone else. We keep 20-25 gallons on the farm, plus the cars are kept tupped up, but that won't last long. We will have to be attentive to conserving gasoline until things return to normal....if ever. 

EMP protection - I don't know if there is anything we could do that would be practical. Practical is the magic word here. Protect the vehicles? Protect the solar electric system? Protect the generator? Making a true Faraday box building would be incredibly expensive and difficult. A steel or aluminum building simply wouldn't work. They would help somewhat but they wouldn't work. 

Communication - Unknown. Will there be functioning electricity? Cellphone? 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Missile Alert !! -- Things Just Got Real

8:07 this morning I was faced with a strong dose of "real"...... a missile alert. We were eating breakfast with friends at a local restaurant. Interestingly, after a bit of contemplation, we opted to continue our meal and see what developed. There wasn't much we could that would make a difference, so why not enjoy our hot breakfast. Nobody else in the restaurant did much different....patrons kept eating, waitresses kept working. Interesting non-response. 

People turned to electronic media. Cellphones and tablets came out. People looked for confirmation. After 4-5 minutes the public sirens still hadn't gone off, no civil defense alerts issued, everyone was confused and beginning to believe it was a false alarm. Twitter was abuzz, but everything else was quiet. Then Tulsi Gabbard twittered a false alarm notice and a local emergency worker confirmed it.....false alarm. Nooooooooooow we had a conversation topic to last us the rest of the day! Everybody was talking about it. 

Around where I am, there isn't any viable shelter to run to. Don't look up into the sky and get into a building is about all you can do that would make a difference. Most people I've talked with tended to continue what they were already doing, not panicking. Emergency personnel shifted into action, reporting to their stations. Otherwise, not much excitement. 

Ka'u isn't high on North Korea's hit list. But I don't have much confidence in their ability to accurately hit a target. So even if a missile was targeting Honolulu, we could very well be in immediate danger if the missile missed. But what's more concern for me is the aftermath. Am I prepared for that? 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Noodles - An Update

Here's an update in the new pup. Many people have been asking about him. 

Noodles is now a "big boy" puppy. He's 6 months old, so he's got an adult sized body with an eight week old's mind. Sometimes that's challenging to deal with. He frisks now more so than when he was younger, so it is hysterical to see this big goof gallouping about, crashing into things. He doesn't seem to get the hang of his ever growing dimensions ... longer legs, taller size, wider shoulders. Just this morning he crashed running up the hillside stairs, legs akimbo, flipping himself off the side. Not a rare occurrence, he crashes at least once a day! And just recently he's added whacking his head as he runs under the house. He hasn't quite adjusted to his increased height either. And he still tries to take a shortcut by running between the furniture and the wall, but he no longer fits. He either gets wedged, or pushes the chair or table out toward the center of the room. 

Noodles fits his name. Just try picking him up and see what happens. It's like picking up a pile of cooked spaghetti. The pup's legs just melt out from under him, his neck flops, his whole body goes noodlely. You can imagine the challenge of picking him up to put him into the car. Thank heaven he jumps in on his own accord nowadays, but there for awhile it was an interesting endeavor. And every time I brush him he "goes noodles".  He gets his legs, chest, and belly brushed more frequently than his head and back, only because that's what gets presented to me. 

Above, he looks quite grown-up after his first haircut. 3 inches of puppy fuzz got changed into one inch of neat, tight wave. 

So what sort of nickname can you give a puppy called Noodles? Noods? Yes, I've caught myself calling him that in public, and yes, I get some strange looks. Kinda funny. But he's acquired a few other monikers : Noodle Boy, Alligator Mouth, and Poindexter. Ok, why Alligator Mouth? He is a very mouth oriented dog, having Labrador in him. So he likes to gently grab and hold things...toys, sticks, often our hands or wrists. On top of it, he has the long narrow snout of the Standard Poodle. He very much reminds one of a gentle alligator. 

So why Poindexter? That's an odd one, right? Well, we have a friend who thought Noodles was a cute puppy name but not appropriate for an adult dog. She suggested changing his name to Doodles when he grew up. She was serious!  Frankly, we like Noodles and it fits him perfectly. But it did put the idea into our heads about a more sophisticated name. Don't ask me why, but the name Poindexter struck a cord with hubby. This pup has been more of a studious, nerdy puppy compared to others we've raised in the past, so it's apropos. Now, whenever we want to talk about him but not let him know it, we refer to him as Poindexter. He already knows that Noodles, "the puppy", and "the dog" involves him in some way, but he hasn't caught onto Poindexter yet. 

Every night Noodles sleeps with a pile of his stuffed toys. And brother, he's got quite the collection. 18 all told! And he remembers every one of them. Plus has special assignments for them. The red moose, pink monkey, and white cow are taken outdoors for playing with. Every time I bring them in, out they go again. But none of his other stuffed toys are taken outdoors. Never. Six are living room residents. Six are bedroom residents. Plus the golden monkey and rope snake can end up anywhere. I guess they are "free agents". It is really strange that he designates where his toys stay stashed. 

Each night he sleeps in a crate in the bedroom, atop a pile of stuffed toys. He's probably old enough to start sleeping out of his crate now, but he automatically enters the crate on his own accord. So I'll let him keep the habit for a while longer until such time that he decides he wants to try sleeping with his best pal, Crusty. But during the day he naps out in the living room. He's got his six toys there, but he's also got something special that he sleeps atop.....one of the jumbo Costco teddy bears. 

We've never seen him nap anywhere except atop his toys, or now, his giant teddy bear. Yes, it was his Christmas present from Santa Claus.

We've grown quite fond of this pup. He's turning out to be a good one. He's been an extremely easy pup to raise and train. He's constantly happy and optimistic. And just recently starting to show watchdog tendencies -- perhaps an influence from Willy, the farm guard dog. Oh yes, while Crusty is Noodles BFF (best friend forever), Willy is his early morning playmate. Noodles has put some spring and energy back into old Willy, turning him into a younger dog again. Nice to see them play together. 

Noodles is coming along and looks destined to becoming one really fine dog. We surely lucked out getting him. He's the ideal puppy for two old people to raise. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

How Much Fencing Does a Farm Have?

"K" asked, "How much fence do you have around your farm?"

The entire 20 acres has a perimeter fence, and while the front property line is a stone wall, there is fencing running inside it. Why? Because one of the farm dogs used to jump the wall when he was skinnier. He's now too overweight to make the leap, but the fence stays. It comes in handy for keeping the new dairy goats in, and 2 footed snoops out. 

The back 14 acres also has cross fencing. That means that it is divided into several separated pasture fields. This is because I use rotational grazing. 

So counting all the fencing, it comes very close to 2 miles of fence. Oh geez! It's hard for me to believe I put most of that original fencing up myself. Thank heavens for David, who completed what I started. Yup, the old farm fence was all rotted away when we bought this land. Even the fence posts were well past their lifespans. And now since the time that the fence was put up, it's had to have many repairs here and there over the years. Occasionally a t-post has rusted off at the base, but mostly it's the fencing itself that rusts out. Surprisingly the whole fence doesn't rust away at the same rate. Some sections of my original fence have rusted badly, requiring replacement twice now. Other sections are the original fence. All the same brand and grade fence, so go figure. 

Although it was very expensive, I have no regrets fencing in the 20 acres. And the cross fencing, though not mandatory, has been a significant benefit. I may never see a full cash return on the cross fencing in my lifetime, but again, I have no regrets. 

A farm surely doesn't need field fencing. There are indeed other options. But field fencing keeps not only my livestock in, but also controls the farm dogs. It's really nice being able to let the dogs run the farm without having to keep an eye on them. Now that the new pup is 6 months old, he can no longer squeeze under the gates, so he's secure now too. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Emergency Fence a Repair - Being Prepared

Checking the fenceline today I came upon a rusting section that is finally giving up the ghost........rusting through, that is. It's been trying to die for months now, but it was still solid enough and effectively keeping in the livestock. But on close inspection, I found places that had rusted away, potentially leaving holes in the fence. Time for action. Leaving it go much longer could result in escaping sheep. Believe me, they can be difficult to relocate and bring home. Been there, done that, never want to do it again! 

Now here's the Boy Scout part ..... being prepared. I keep a roll of field fence on the farm at all times. Not always a full roll, but at least 100 foot of fencing. Why stockpile it? Because the nearest place to buy it is a 1 1/2 hour drive away, and when it's needed, it's NOW, not this afternoon. 

The roll I had was about 150' of fence. The rusting section was 100', give or take a few feet. So I had enough on hand to fix this section. 

Since David was working today, I asked him to help. Between the two of us, we cleared the fenceline of weeds and brush, strung the fence, got the job done in less than an hour. 

Because of our local volcano, replacing sections of fencing is a never ending job. Now I need to put a roll of field fence on the shopping list for the next time I run to Hilo. Last time I bought a roll it was almost $200 for the medium grade. I'd like to buy the better grade but it's difficult finding it in stock. It's a popular item. Perhaps this trip I'll be lucky. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Home Skills -- Required?

These past couple of days I've been communicating with folks dealing with the deep freeze back on the mainland. A number have blogs and have been posting about their troubles. The one thing I've become aware of is that many of them lack basic skills to deal with their problems. Thus they are on a long waiting list for repairs.....damaged rooves, broken water pipes, furnaces that won't work, no electricity, frozen doors and locks, fallen trees blocking driveways, etc. Learning some basic skills would have come in handy. 

While living back in New Jersey back in our young days, because of the lack of a savings account, out of necessity we had to learn how to maintain our vehicles and do basic repairs (brakes, new rings, timing belt, new clutch, oil changes, etc). Hubby learned to do plumbing, with galvanized, copper, and plastic piping. He also learned to do electrical. I learned to repair our appliances -- range, washing machine, clothes dryer, furnace. I even managed a few repairs on our refrigerator. We figured out how our water well worked, re-primed ours using a hand pump, repaired the water pump multiple times, replaced check valves. Figured out how to unfreeze pipes and sewer lines. Learned about septic systems and built a new leach field. Built French drains and swales when we had flooding problems. Learned how to repair broken windows and screens, fix doors, repair roof leaks. Even put on a new roof and exterior siding. Figured out how to install new windows, doors, and insulation. Learned to use hand and power tools safely, including a chainsaw. 

Back in those days we couldn't google it nor watch YouTube videos to learn how. We did it the old fashioned way -- went to the library and took adult education courses at the local vo-tech college. 

Call me old fashioned, or just plain practical, but I think knowing basic skills is a necessity when living on a small farm or living independently. This recent deep freeze is showing that. Blogs written by older established rural types show them going about their day successfully dealing with the ice, snow, and sub-zero freeze.  But other blogs and Facebook pages show people struggling to survive and awaiting rescue via the repairmen. Several were poorly prepared. 

Guess I'm just a Boy Scout type.....be prepared. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Piglet

A new addition to the farm today -- a tiny piglet. Tiny indeed! 

He's a little feral pig, and very, very thin. I'm guessing him to be 3 to 3 1/2 weeks old, but it's hard to gauge because he's so malnutritioned. Obviously lost from his mom, he was destined to die. But friends of mine found him wandering alone, managed to get some food into him, and offered him shelter until I could go retrieve him. 

Until I can get a proper shelter and run built, he will temporarily stay in an old dog cage and use a small pet carrier as his "house". And while I will be putting hot water bottles into his house at night for him to snuggle up to in addition to a fluffy blanket, he needs something for extra warmth for while he's running about. So one of hubby's socks got turned into a piglet sweater. (Sorry, hubby.) the little guy took to the sweater within 30 seconds. Guess he suddenly felt warmer. 

Getting him to eat hasn't been a problem. He readily chows row dog food soaked in lambs milk, plus willingly suckles a bottle of milk. 

Once sated, he returns to his little makeshift house. He's not interested in checking out his pen yet. Just wants to eat and sleep. 

At night I'll cover the cage with a tarp to keep out the wind and chill, plus add a hot water bottle. I hope this little guy makes it. Tomorrow I'll deworming him, and if he's healthy next week, I'll neuter him. 

Now....a name. Since he will be a pet for my wwoofer, I'll let Adam name this little fella. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

No Production Records To Date

Since I was posting statistics, "A" emailed to say that he wanted to hear some of my gardening statistics, since it appeared that I was keeping detailed records of the farm. Sorry to disappoint you "A", but I haven't kept any real records, other than what I've posted on this blog. 

Why haven't I kept records? 
...it takes up precious time
...it wasn't important enough to me
...I'm not obsessive about statistics
...I don't weigh my harvest
...I don't count my seedlings and plants
...I don't measure the square footage of my gardens
...I have more important things to do

Having said all that, I do indeed believe that keeping records can be important. But I'm basically going along on gut feeling for now. When it gets more important to know the real figures, I'll consider writing things down. 

Having been growing things for several years now, I know what to expect from certain crops/animals. I know that more than a dozen ewes is too many, and the flock averages about 1.5 lambs per ewe twice a year. I can handle under 100 chickens but not over. One or two milk goats is plenty. Zero cows is a perfect number. 

A full bed of Chinese cabbage is too much at one time. 500 onion plants a year isn't nearly enough. A dozen cucumber plants producing at a time is sufficient. One tray of radishes a week is fine. Sowing one box of carrots a week works out almost perfectly. Sowing one bed of beans every week is right for now. And I could easily double my banana trees without having too many bananas. 

Once I'm devoted to making a livable income, I'll probably be more apt to keep better details. But for right now, I couldn't tell you how many pounds of peas or tomatoes I'm harvesting each month. Nor how many potatoes each variety produces. Perhaps in the future that will change. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Rain & Temps

2017 rain total -- 40.2 inches
2017 highest temperature recorded on 8/18 -- 85°
2017 lowest temperature recorded on both 1/31 and 2/1 -- 49°
Generally, I got the overall impression that 2017 was a warm year with decent, but not great, rainfall, though the total shows it to be a bit on the low side. 

With rain being less than ideal. I ended up having to irrigate a number of times, plus needed to haul water for the greenhouses. Normal rainfall totals are around 60 inches. So 2017 was about 20" below normal, and 13 inches less than 2016. Two years in a row with less than expected rain means that there's less moisture banked in the soil for the trees. So I will have to be aware of that if 2018 also turns out low on rain. 

The seed farm had even less rain. I don't have an accurate reading for that location, but I estimate that it received around 25" of rain. Hauling water is a necessity on that piece of land. Temperatures are much warmer there, though I don't record it. On days that the farm is in the low 80s, the seed farm is hitting 90°. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 / 2018

Highlights looking back....
...found a successful solution to growing slug-free greens & carrots
...came up with an affordable (for me, that is) greenhouse to thwart the pickleworm moth
...had great success in learning to grow cucumbers
...learned that creating a steady farm income requires a lot of time. I also learned that as of yet, I don't have enough time to devote to steady farm income. I still have too many other projects that need to be finished first. 
...managed to create 1/4 acre more of edible pasture. It's a slow task, removing undergrowth, thinning trees, adding soil amendments, getting something edible to grow.
...added a Wwoofer/caretaker
...added a new puppy to the family 
...invited to Kapapala Ranch -- thrice!

Looking forward....
...finish the bathroom
...build an outdoor deck and add a hot tub 
...put a new roof on the house
...get the refrig and freezer onto their own small solar system
...get all the greenhouses into production
...develop a steady farm income 

As you know, I'm not into New Year's resolutions. Why set myself up for failure, along with the accompanying guilt, stress, and depression? Sure I'd like to lose weight, get rid of bad habits, accomplish great tasks...just like most people. But I'm happier if I refrain from resolutions and just stick with a few sensible ideas for priority projects I'd like to work on. If they get completed, fine. If not, then I'll just continue to plug away and enjoy working on them as I go. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

The New Year

Just a quick update:

Having just spent the holiday season catching up of little things around the place and not quite getting anything completely done, we finally decided to spend the first day of the year doing nothing. How about that! Now that's something different for us. We ended up driving down to South Point to greet the first day of the year, its first sunrise and its companion sunset, plus a bonus -- a full moon. 

Yes, cellphones take terrible moon photos. But you're stuck looking at this one when, if I had a proper camera with the right lens and filters, you could have seen one spectacular super moon rising over the rolling cattle pastures right on the end of South Point. Instead you're stuck looking at a white blog. Oh well. 

We were invited to numerous gatherings today, but spending time at South Point seemed like the right thing to do. One is not completely away from civilization down there, but it's easy to disconnect and block out everything but the geography and nature around you. I always feel better after spending time there.