Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Loss & Gain in the Gardens

"J" asked a few questions, including....
"Are there things that you can't grow in Hawaii but wanted to/miss?" "Are there things that you can grow there that you're really happy you can grow now!" 

Yes, there are plenty of things I wish I could grow here, because I miss them. I don't deny it. But that is offset by being able to grow so many things that I couldn't back on the mainland. So it's a trade off that I willing accept. Yes, there are some things that I miss, but absolutely nothing that would cause me to move away from Hawaii. And besides, I can grow stuff year around here, which I surely couldn't do in NJ. 

What I miss....
...crispy Melrose apples. But happily there are a couple of low chill varieties that I can, and actually do, grow on the farm. So I'm not totally devoid of homegrown apples. 
...stone fruits. Where the farm is located is too warm for most of them. I can grow a small (golf ball size) peach, but that's it. I really miss those plums, cherries, and peaches. 
...blueberries and cane berries. The low chill varieties don't survive here for long because of diseases. Once upon a time I was a big eater of blueberries and fresh raspberries. No more, sigh. 
...tree nuts. No walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. But I've been introduced to macadamia nuts, which grow great here. I have seven macnut trees on the farm, enough to satisfy my homegrown nut cravings. 
...summer squash. Not that it won't grow here, but it succumbs to diseases easily. It's been a real challenge to grow. In the greenhouses I'm getting a few zucchini squash, but so far nothing else on a reliable basis. I still need to work on this. Gee, back in NJ the summer squashes were aggressive growers and as simple as pie to grow! But that's not the case here. But as an easy substitute, I grow pipinolas. 
...winter squash. A few varieties resist the fruit flies here, but most don't without special assistance. Mildew and squash borers are real major problems. And fruit flies and pickle worm aggressively attack the fruits. 
...melons. Cantaloupes just won't make it here due to multiple diseases and bugs if they don't have a protected environment and ongoing chemical applications. Watermelons are one of those challenging crops due to suspectibility to mildew and fruit flies. I've grown it, but it's difficult. 

In the non-edible category, I sure do miss the flowering bulbs....snowdrops, crocus, hyacinths, daffodil, tulips, grape hyacinths, etc. And many flowering plants that require a cold spell -- dogwoods, witch hazel, lilacs, forcythia, azalea. It's the lilacs that I miss the most. 

What I've gained.....
...several tropical fruits : bananas, guava, papaya, pineapples, loquat, citrus (lime, lemon, orange, tangelo, tangerine, grapefruit, pomelo, finger lime). There is nothing like home ripened fruits. I've become a fruit snob and no longer wish to eat store bought bananas, citrus, or pineapples. 
...non-fruit edibles : coffee, turmeric, ginger, pipinolas, jicama, allspice, cinnamon, clove
...tropical plants. 

Still there are things that won't grow on the farm that I wish I could...
Breadfruit, mango, rambutan, lychee. 

All in all, I'd say that I'm on the plus side for being able to grow things now. And thinking it over, the two things I miss the most from my pre-Hawaii gardens are the spring blooming lilacs and the smell of autumn leaves. Several years ago I had a friend send me a box of autumn leaves, which I have treasured. But they have lost their smell over time. But their faint hint of autumn still sets my heart sailing with pleasure. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Ohia Trees Are Now In Bloom

Ohia is an Hawaiian tree. Young trees look rather like a scrubby bush, but as they mature, especially in a forest, they become towering trees. 

Photo...taken in the rain, so it's not a great photo. Sorry. 

And one unique tree it is! It is well adapted to growing in pure lava where nutrients are difficult and moisture scarce (even when it rains frequently, the moisture tends to rapidly drain away). It is one of the first plants to colonize fresh lava fields, being very opportunistic and adaptable. It will tolerate desert to boggy conditions, soil to no soil, low elevations to high elevations. It is evergreen, but sheds leaves throughout the year, creating its own mulch beneath its canopy. It's root system totally amazes me because it is aggressively fibrous, sending massive numbers of rootlets out in a dense mat in just about every direction, including up. Yes, up. I've created raised beds around ohia trees only to find the bed completely rooted in 2-3 years later. It also sends roots out from the truck, which eventually reach the ground and anchor the tree. On top of that, certain trees will also produce masses of air roots, red colored and alien looking. 

This tree is a big one, with a 24" diameter truck. 

Our farm is loaded with ohia trees. Most are healthy, though we've lost a few from damage by previous land users. Recently we lost a few to a fungal disease. But all in all, our ohias are doing fine. We've got a few big ones dotted here and there (18" to 24" diameter trunks) but by-and-large, most are medium 6"-12" trunks. 

(Photo.... bright red flowers amid silvery, grayish green foliage.) 

The honey bees love the nectar from the brilliant red flowers. The flowers are called lehua flowers. Thus the honey is called lehua honey, a thick, whitish, crystalline honey that spreads like a soft peanut butter.  The flavor is unique and nothing like you find in supermarket honey. I never liked honey before I tried raw Hawaiian honeys, but I quickly fell in love. My own lehua honey is in my top 3 favorite honeys. 

Photo.....close up of the lehua blooms.'s why I chatting about the ohia tree. On the farm they are in bloom. Beautiful. In fact, they started blooming in earnest 2 weeks ago and I'm now seeing more and more trees sporting red flowers. And though red is the dominant color, I also see the occasional orange and the even rarer yellow lehua flowers. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

No Swales

I've often been asked by people not familiar with my area of Hawaii, if I have built swales on my farm. Truthfully, no need. The ground here on the farm drains because it is fractured lava. Rain runoff is not an issue. Even if I wanted to capture rain runoff around the farm using swales, I couldn't on 99% of the place. 

There are generally only two situations where I don't see natural drainage.....#1- down on the flat pahoehoe lava where a previous owner added several truckloads of cinder and compacted it in anticipation of building a barn. Good thing he didn't because the area now floods. His modification blocked the natural drainage system.  I had to create draining trenches to remedy the water problem. #2- the driveway. Since the driveway is compacted, it's understandable that the rain runs off. 

Photo....rain accumulating in the tire tracks. 

Driveway.......rather than building rain bars to divert the water off the driveway, I am taking advantage of the runoff by letting it run down the tire tracks then diverting it to the two hugelpits that run on either side of the driveway. The tire tracks don't become bogged down in mud because the driveway, as with the ground here, is lava rock with a little dirt between the rocks. We have put a thin layer of coarse gravel atop the driveway, and over time the vehicles grind it into coarse sand. That sand will wash out during torrential rains, once again exposing the lava driveway. No big deal. It just means that new gravel needs to be shoveled into the tire tracks again. The gravel is there just to make our ride up the driveway smoother, more pleasant, easier on the low slung cars. 

Photo....water runoff coming down the driveway. 

The hugelpits are gigantic sponges and thus far have taken all the water Mother Nature has produced. I think this is a good way to bank that water and have it available for the bananas and turmeric that grow on the hugelpits. 

Photo....bananas growing in one of the hugelpits along the driveway. 

Just a note.......this past summer I mined sections of the top 2 to 3 foot of material out of one of the hugelpits. I needed "compost-soil" for another project. It had been two years since much of the pit had been topped off. The mulchy soil looked great and was moist - no surprise. But what did surprise me was that 3 foot down into the hugelpit the fill was on the dry-ish side. The top 3 foot had sponged up the water and not so much was getting into the lower layers. That means that most of the rain runoff was being captured and there wasn't excess, thus flooding the pit. So this gigantic hugelpit was capable of capturing a lot, lot more runoff. It's holding capacity is enormous. The pit is actually over 6 foot deep in most places. So it should be able to capture quite a bit of water.  

Photo.....water runoff running through the shallow drainage channel and into the hugelpit. It was pouring rain when I took the photo, so there's lots of water.

Based upon this information, I terminated the rain runoff channels higher up the driveway and directed most of the runoff to the pits, now knowing that they can handle it. For some reason I feel smug knowing that I'm not wasting the rain runoff. Instead I'm banking it for my crops. 

Diverting the water to the exact location in the hugelpit is simple. I use a hoe to scrap an inch deep channel. Then the water flows exactly where I want. With such a simple set up, I can block off a channel or create a new one at will. This way I can get water to flow into the hugelpit at any spot I think could use it. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018


I recently harvested the seed pods from my jicama plant, so I removed the plant so that I could till in some soil amendments and plant the next crop. I wasn't expecting to see much, but I found three small jicamas to harvest. 

These are on the small side, but they're actually perfect size for hubby and I to add to a mixed salad. We prefer to eat them raw and sliced thin. In the past I've had jicama that was as big as a softball, but that was from a plant growing in soft, fertile garden soil. 

(A closer view.) 

What's it like to eat? Juicy. Crisp. Mild. Much like a water chestnut. I peel the tuber, then slice it up. 

 I've gotten quite a good supply of fresh seed from this tiny plant. I plan to sow a few in the coming week and store the rest for seeding later on. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Teenage Puppy

Noodles is 7 months old and now a canine teenager. What a pain in the neck! He is often conveniently deaf, hesitates when responding to commands, and tries things he's never done rooting in the trash, chasing chickens, and taking things off of tables. And of course, he always thinks he knows better than mom. Just like a human teenager, he thinks he knows everything about everything already. 

This pup has been an easy puppy so far. Even his teenage phase hasn't been too bad.....yet. I just remind myself that he still has plenty of time to get worse. And in truth, his behavior will indeed get worse. Most pups have their worst teenage behavior around 9 months of age. So I have 2 more months till the climax before things start getting better. Sigh. 

Above....taking a break after a tiring morning of rough housing with Crusty on the farm. 

This past few weeks hubby has had 2 sneakers chewed up. He owns two indentical pairs, and out of shear luck Noodles chewed the left shoe of one pair and right of the other, leaving hubby with one good set of matching sneakers. I wasn't so lucky. Noodles gnawed the back off of two Crocs, both the right shoes. Drats. Now all shoes are stashed up on the closet shelf, well out of reach. By the way, Gator Mouth has also discovered the laundry basket. After I found several chewed up socks in the hallway, the laundry basket got moved to a higher location too. Simply telling a young teenager "no" surely doesn't work, so things get moved out of reach until his brain catches up with his big body. In about 2 months he will be able to understand and learn better than he can now. Oh, he learns tricks well enough, but commonsense life rules don't seem so sensible to him.

Each morning now starts out with a short puppy obedience routine, after my own tai chi warm up. Noodles likes to sit there watching me do tai chi, so I've incorporated him into the act, doing a bit of "sit", "wait", "ok" exercises. His general behavior seems to improve for a while after his own morning "routine". 

Since The Noodler no longer has a snappy "come" whenever I call him, I've resorted to another trick to help keep tabs on his location. I've added bells to his collar.

 This way I can hear where he is in the house or on the farm. It also gives the chickens warning that the big puppy is heading their way. Being part Labrador Retriever, Noodles has a soft mouth. Thank heaven, or otherwise I'd have to slam him if he hurt chickens. He has caught the chickens several times and brought the unharmed birds to me. These hens are so use to him that they aren't even afraid and simply shake their feathers back into position once he lets them go, and indignantly strut back to their territory. But chasing, and picking up chickens, is forbidden on this farm. So Noodles needs to learn....and obey.....the rules. I've had numerous correction and training sessions with him, but as soon as he thinks I'm not looking, he'll corner and pick up a hen to bring to me. Since attaching the bells to his collar, he hasn't brought me a bird. The hens are learning, even if Noodles isn't! 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

March Musings

It's taken me most the past year, but I'm finally seriously looking into income streams. Fresh veggies and fruits are a given. But what else? Adam and my neighbor, Matt, are also looking for income, and while the garden produce is helping them, they realize that we nee to diversify. 

Potted seedlings. We're cleaning up the mini greenhouses and sowing seeds again now that the dead of winter is past. Adam aims to devote several of the mini greenhouses to potted veggies and herbs that he can take to the farmers market for selling. He has been talking with folks around town and they seem interested in both veggies and herbs. 

Green coffee beans ready for home roasting. I haven't the foggiest idea if there is any demand for this, but Adam plans to test the market. 

Eggs. I don't see an egg business happening this year. The flock is aging, plus the farm now has a wwoofer to feed. But if there happens to be extra eggs, then they'll go to the market. 

Lamb. I will have two older lambs ready for slaughter. Plus a ram that can go for ground mutton. With the new lambs arriving, it's time to process the older sheep that are not needed. Plus any excess lambs will be ready for selling for meat in 6 months. I've gotten 4 male lambs so far this season and surely don't need more rams in the flock. One is now sold, but that leaves 3 extra ram lambs. 

Goat milk. Not this year, but maybe next year. Pet owners are interested in buying small amounts of goat milk. So Adam might consider selling the excess. 

Compost. Adam is getting serious about making compost. Within a few months he should be selling his first batch. I consider my own compost to be too valuable to sell for now. 

Garden labels. A friend jokingly suggested marketing my bright yellow garden sticks that I use for labels. My own sticks are rather crude and rough, but I could make some better made ones for resale. So a passing joke might be a marketing idea. 

Young chickens and ducks. "S" made the suggestion to sell young birds. Both chickens and ducks. Well, with a little effort, we could get a few of the hens sitting on eggs right now. Ducks....I would need to buy a few since I'm down to one female. It's something to consider. 

Garden seeds. Since I'm producing a fair amount of my own garden seed, it looks like I could be getting excess. Is there a market for garden seed in this area? 

Veggies. This is a given. Fresh chemical-free veggies are sellable. Now the trick will be to produce a steady supply rather than our rollercoaster excess that we've been doing so far. 

Adam is also looking into some day work, things like handyman style jobs. This isn't something that the farm will benefit from, but Adam needs income other than just the farm for now. Eventually he hopes to just live off the farm production. But in the meantime he is looking to pick up a few hours work here and there. Matt has been picking up some day work to supplement his house painting efforts. But he also wants to focus on growing pumpkins and beets. He does fairly well with those two crops. 

Developing income streams is challenging in a poor rural area. I'm not complaining and I surely am not interested in moving to where the better markets are (Honolulu area, Kahului area, etc). Nor am I interested at this point in developing an internet presence to sell stuff. That is possibly a future project, but not for now. For right now, all involved are just looking to get comfortable with growing more food and related farm production. I think that's a worthy goal for now. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sheep Questions Answered

"B" asked me to clear up a few questions about breeding sheep......

1- Is there a special time of the year that sheep will mate? 
     Here in Hawaii, our hair sheep will breed year around. There is no set mating season. But the female sheep (ewe) must be "in heat" to accept a ram. Otherwise she will reject his interest and refuse to stand. Once in heat, she will accept his advances for 1 or 2 days before going out of heat once again. If not pregnant, she will come back into heat 2 to 3 weeks later. 
      My own ewes don't go in and out of heat constantly year around, but seem to have a breeding season based upon many factors : amount of daylight, their body condition, amount of available food, length of time since last pregnancy, and whether or not they have been lactating. Since the ewes can see or are with the rams all the time, the sudden arrival of rams into the pasture doesn't bring them into heat. But once one ewe comes into heat, all the others will shortly follow within days. 

2- How do you know that one of your ewes is 3 weeks behind the rest of the flock? 
     She did not bag up and prepare to lamb along with the other ewes. So I guessed that she did not become pregnant on the first go around, but most likely came back into heat 3 weeks later and was successfully bred. 

3- How long is a sheep pregnant? 
     Their gestation period, the time from successful breeding to lambing, is about 5 months, but it varies a few days either way. 

4- How can you tell they are getting ready to have their baby? 
     Sometimes I am lucky enough to see the ewe in standing heat, and possibly witness the mating. Then I make a note so that I know when she will lamb. But most of the time I don't. Since the gestation period is 5 months, I can mark my calendar for an approximate time then watch for signs. Before lambing, the ewe's udder will fill out. And 5-7 days before, the udder will be round, firm, and full. At this point I'll check on the ewe several times a day. 

(Above, a round, full, taunt udder. This ewe lambed 3 days after this photo.) 

5- How many lambs does each sheep have? You mentioned that you preferred single lambs. Why? 
     I have had ewes have anywhere from 1 to 4 lambs at a time . Four are a nightmare for both me and the ewe. I prefer single lambs for a number of reasons. They don't overly tax the ewe. They are bigger and more robust at birth. They grow faster. They grow bigger. The ewe can keep track of them better and will be more attentive to the lamb. Twins (or more) tend to get themselves into trouble, getting lost, popping through the fence, etc. I seldom have a single lamb die, but mortality increases with twins and triplets. 

(Above, lambs of the same age. The two in the middle are a set of twins. The ones on the far right and left are each singles. The singles are far bigger than the twins. The twins are normal sized and are robust, so it's not that they are weaklings.) 

6- How do you control how many babies they have? 
     Well, I don't have a lot of control on that. But I do try to avoid over feeding them when they are due to come into heat. Having a ewe gaining weight will often result in extra lambs. So I try to avoid that. 
     Young ewes often have singles. Older ewes may have twins or more if the ewe is in good health and a bit overweight (or gaining weight). I grass feed my ewes and do not feed pellets or extra grain so that they do not become overly conditioned. This helps keep lambing to singles and twins. 


My own flock is grass fed will only a very small handful of sweet feed daily. Thus they are not being nutritionally pushed. On top of that, I don't wean most of the lambs early, so ewes are lactating a long time, much longer than in commercial flocks. These factors delay the ewes from coming back into heat quickly. My goal is not to achieve the most production out of my sheep. I'd rather see them be unstressed, healthy, more natural, happier. I don't need the maximum amount of iambs out of my flock. I'm content to just get 5-6 lambs each season. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Wheat Experiment

I'm experimenting with growing wheat. I'd like to add this crop, not for us, but for the livestock. Hubby and I are not big wheat eaters, and the thought of having to process my own ground wheat isn't all that appealing. But as a supplement for the chickens and sheep, it would be nice. 

Knowing virtually nothing about wheat other than its a grass, I arbitrarily picked Pima wheat to try. I wasn't interested in a modern type, at least not as a start. Pima wheat is an older variety, so I ordered one small packet to see how things went. 

October 1st I planted the seed. Within a week it was germinating. So far, so good. 

For the first 2 1/2 months it grew slowly but surely, getting green and grassy. Then the dogs discovered my small patch and took to eating it. A light spraying with vinegar stopped their grazing, but the plants growing within easy reach had gotten regularly pruned there for awhile. 

3 1/2 months into their growth, hubby decided he needed the location to set up his temporary solar panel rack. Geez. At first he wanted the wheat ripped out, but I came up with a solution he accepted. I built a platform out of wood pallets, making the structure sturdy but open to sunlight. This gave most of the wheat plants the opportunity to keep growing, 

Now it has been 4 1/2 months since seeding. The dog-pruned plants are around 18-24 inches high, the ungrazed plants are 3 foot high. And they are developing flower spikes. Happy, happy farmer am I !!!!!!! 

So now I'll wait and watch. How long will it rate for the wheat to develop, for it to mature, for it to be ready to harvest? Don't know but I'm sure to find out, I'm just happy to see that wheat will indeed grow here,  

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Complete Turkey Drivel

Driving up the road toward home, it's not uncommon to have to share the road with some of the other local residents. Folks out for a stroll. The occasional lost hunting dog. Neighbors' cats. Escaped goats (and sometimes even cows). Feral pigs. Pheasants. Assorted wild birds. Today it was turkeys .....
(Things look blurry because it was raining and I took the photo through the truck's windshield.) 

These 3 critters spied me coming and started trotting up the road. For the next 3/4 mile, they never deviated. Right up the center of the road. I guess nobody informed them that they were birds, they could fly out of harm's way. So for several minutes I got a really good look at them trotting up ahead of me. 

Being a retired dog show person, I couldn't help but notice that the three birds each had a different gait. One tracked wide, causing him/her to rock side to side as it wobble-trotted up the hill, head swinging from side to side. Another turkey single tracked, bringing its legs right underneath it's body as it effortlessly kept pace with its buddy. I would have awarded the first place ribbon to this one. The last one, I could see, was suffering. It was incredibly cow-hocked, so that it had to put out great effort to briskly trot along with the others. Within a half mile, this cow-hocked bird was slowing down, struggling, mouth open, and heavily panting. I actually felt sorry for it and slowed my truck so that it wouldn't collapse in exhaustion. Poor bird. 

I never thought about it, but the feral turkeys are just like dogs....some are put together better than others. Some are efficient movers, others are not. Being essentially wild living animals, I thought that Mother Nature would weed out the poorer specimens, but I suppose that life for them here in Hawaii is soft & cushy. Not much in the way of predators to enforce "survival of the fittest". So even the less efficient ones survive. 

Ok....this post has nothing to do about anything, but I found it interesting to watch these turkeys heading up the hill. I guess I'll look at them a little differently for now on. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018


Since my last blog post, this place here has turned into "constant wet"......rain, rain, rain. Not a waterfall type rain, but a constant fall of moisture shifting from light mist to moderate downpour. Nothing steady, other than a general wet, but rather a dance of passing squalls in a landscape of swirling mist. In a way it's sounds pretty, but frankly, I'm sick of the wet! 

The constant wet has stymied my progress on the farm. There for awhile I was happily zipping along. Now things are at a standstill. Well, actually worse than standstill. The excess moisture is damaging the young plant seedlings. And I can't get the next crop succession planted. Life as a small farmer is full of frustrations. I deal with it by being flexible, changing my goals. But rain this many days in a row even makes this solution difficult to achieve. I'm just plan sick of rain and frustrated as heck. 

Just before the rain started, this farm was hopping. 5 lambs born -- thank heavens the last ewe is 3 weeks behind the others and not lambing in this rain. All the yacon has gotten planted. 80% of the turmeric is in the ground, but there's no rush to get the rest in. It can wait. All the garden beds are planted. 19 of the mini-greenhouses are full. 2 of the new 5 grow boxes are filled. 6 of the coarse compost bins got loaded up. And a new bed for 14 pineapple plants got created and planted., just zipping along. If you're an avid gardener or small farmer, you know just how good it feels to get things planted. 

Now I'm at a standstill. Blag! But I still have farm chores that need doing, even if it's raining. So each day I go through several changes of clothes, peeling off the wet clothes sticking to my skin, snuggling into wonderfully dry new ones. Yes, I could wear a raincoat, but I get overheated really quickly. The rain here isn't cold, so raincoats turn into personal saunas in a hurry. I'd rather just change into fresh clothes several times a day. I'll use a light raincoat or a long sleeved shirt for those quick trips out. But feeding livestock or checking the fenceline means a long time out in the rain. Yes, I'd rather just change into dry clothing. 

So what to do for the day? Farm work is out. What are my choices? There's only so many naps one can take to claim that I'm "catching up on my sleep". I've already finished up the books that I was reading. I'm burned out on seed catalog browsing. What's left seems to be house cleaning and tax paper work. Blag. Super barf! Perhaps I can start a new hobby called Photographing The Cats In The House. Yes, they too are escaping the rain. 

Rikki Tikki 

Miss Molly

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lambs, Lambs, More Lambs

My, my, my, I didn't expect to have so many lambs arrive on the same day. On a nice, warm, dry day the flock increased by 4. Two of the ewes had singles, and Stacy (the lead ewe) had twins. Frankly I prefer singles, but twins are acceptable. Happily, there were no triplets this time. But I still have one more ewe getting ready to lamb, so I'll hold my breath and hope for a single. 

Now guess what..... all the new lambs are boys! A bit of a disappoint, that. So far this lambing session, I've only gotten one little girl, and she's an all white one. I'd prefer to see some color and markings. But she's healthy and hearty, so I'll take that over a sickly, weak colored one. 

Of the four new lambs, only one is pure white. One is white with brown legs, one is all brown, and the other is black with a white tipped tail and a white cap & scarf. Now if he had only been a girl! If fact, it's a shame with all the color that they all aren't females. Oh well, such is life. 

I'll eventually offer these boys as pets, but if they don't sell, then they're be sold for meat. I don't need any ram replacements this year. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pallet Grow Box Upgrade

Yeah, I'm always trying something a little new. Just tweeting my ideas to see if I find some slightly better way of doing it. Perhaps making something easier, quicker, sturdier, cheaper, etc. 

Sooooo, this week I made a new section of pallet boxes. These will be for the yacon. I cobbled together 5 in arow, nailing the back 3 pallets together using a piece of 2"x4" as the nailing brace. The door was left unnailed so that I can easily open the boxes for harvesting, emptying, etc. 

I'm trying a slight modification on attaching the door. Not much of a change, but it was easy to make. Now I'll see if it turns out to be just as serviceable. 

I used to wire all four pallets together so that they could be easily individually replaced. I'm finding that all 3 side & back pallets tend to rot out at the same rate. Because the rot rate is uniform, I'm now simply nailing the back 3 pallets together for stability reasons. Assembly is far simpler and quicker this way. 

Depending upon what the pallet boxes are being used for, they are lasting 2 to 4 years. I could patch them to make them last longer, but I have easy, free access to replacements. So is simpler to scrap the rotting ones (cut up for firewood or add them to a hugelpit) and plop in a replacement. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Coffee Threesome

Crazy climate? I suspect the coffee trees think it is. How about this.........

Flowers, green unripe cherries, plus red cherries ready to pick....all on the same branch. 

This is happening to the trees growing in the full morning sun, shade after 1 pm. Last year they flowered in the beginning of April. As a comparison, the full shade trees are not yet flowering. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

A Comment About Humanure

I recently posted this comment on a local Hawaiian discussion group. I thought it might be of some interest to others, or at least get some folks thinking. The discussion was brought up because of the new mandatory septic system rules. People were looking at their options of composting humanure manure or installing composting toilets. Some people were already using 5 gallon buckets, others were using or seriously looking into various composting toilets. Others were 100% against handling or using humane manure in any form. Some people feared contaminants from their own bodies. Others feared disease and parasites. The following was my comment. 


Fresh and improperly composted manures can indeed be a problem, resulting in illness. It doesn't matter much what kind of manure it is, although human manure is more likely to contain pathogens that cause human illnesses. But various parasites and illnesses quite often result from livestock manures, and even manures from wild animals have to be considered a danger. I know of many families that had to deal with intestinal parasites due to fresh animal manures. So if you have a fear of using your own humanure, perhaps you should have the similar fear of using animal manures...with due cause. 

As for humanure (as with all manures), if properly composted and aged, it is perfectly safe to use. The big problem arises when the manure is not correctly handled. Problems can arise if the compost is too moist or too dry. If the composting temperature is not high enough or not maintained long enough. If the hot pile is not turned (just because the center is hot enough doesn't mean that the outer edges are!) Human manure, by itself, will not properly compost. Thus additional material needs to be stirred in, such as peat moss, sawdust, brush clippings, etc. Even after hot composting, the recommendation is to consider the time period just to make sure all pathogens are inactivated. For humanure, I think the current recommendation for properly composted material is a one year waiting period. I'm not sure about this though. 

As for parasites.....parasite "eggs" will not survive proper hot composting. And anyway, if you think you have parasites and are contaminating your humanure, I'd suggest you go see a doctor rather than simply refrain from using manure. Parasites don't spontaneously develop in composted manure. The eggs came via the manure to added to the pile. So if you fear getting parasites from your humanure, go get yourself dewormed, then you won't be contaminating your pile. 

What goes in comes out, so the saying goes. So if you are sick and passing disease pathogens, then you need to compost in a fashion to kill those pathogens. If you have intestinal worms, the eggs are coming out. Again, deal with it-- get dewormed and properly hot compost. If you are taking medications that your body eliminates via feces, then they will be going into your compost. You may wish to combine your finished humanure compost pile with a regular compost /soil pile so that the soil microbes can help breakdown those medications. But don't assume that nature can deal with all of them. Many may still remain. If you are eating commercial foods, those chemicals may end up in your humanure too. Again, active soil microbes may be able to deal with some of them. By the way, if you haven't noticed, we live in a contaminated environment. So our compost can never be totally "clean" of unnatural chemicals. We wear commercial made clothing, eat commercial made foods, use commercial products (soap, shampoo, skin products, first aid products, etc). New clothing, houses, cars, even pajamas exude chemicals. Just about everything edible has added chemicals even if not listed on the ingredients list. The inside of cans and bottles are chemical lined. Plastic leaches chemicals into our food and drinks. Storing water in plastic for long term also leaches chemicals. Perhaps not enough for the government to get excited, but these chemicals have been detected in people's urine, so they are indeed there! Personally I just take steps to avoid as much chemical contamination as feasible and live with the rest. I'm not interested in living super remotely, so I have to accept some contaminates in my life. 

Next.....Saying that you'll only use your humanure on trees doesn't totally makes things safe. Yes, there's no rain splash to worry about. But you'll be walking on that soil where you applied the humanure, so your feet will be tracking it about. USDA testing has found that apple pickers contaminate apples with deer & mouse feces by the simple act of climbing a ladder using their hands on the ladder rungs. The worker walks through the orchard, unknowingly walking in mouse droppings. Now the soles of his shoes are contaminated, and proceeds to contaminate the ladder rungs as he climbs to pick apples. If he uses his hands on the ladder rungs (instead of using the ladder side rails) then his hands are contaminated, which contaminate apples as he picks them. That very same thing can happen in your own orchards. And how many people sanitize their shoes after visiting their orchard every time? So you really do need to make sure your humanure compost is safe from pathogens, in fact any manure compost. 

I use manure compost all the time. But I hot compost it and have a waiting period before using. I would not fear humanure if it were properly composted and aged. But quite honestly, I would not trust other people's humanure compost. I have seen far too many people cheat or take shortcuts with their animal manure composts. So I'd have to assume they are doing the same thing with the humanure. 


In Hawaii, cesspools must all be eliminated by 2050. While sewage systems in town areas may be the solution, at great expense to install due to the lava nature of this island, rural and outlining residents will need to look for other options. Septic systems will work for most, but be extremely expensive for the individual. Others, due to their land and the cost factor, will not be able to go that route. Thus composting toilets may their only legal option. But I predict that the poverty section of our population will use illegal methods, such as buckets and outhouses unless the government comes up with a financial assistance plan. People are struggling to live on $10,000 a year or less, so it is impossible for them to budget a legal option for handling human waste. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Eggs 2018

Looks like the hens are back into laying once again. The biddies are getting old, so I'm not having high hopes of making a bundle selling eggs. I have a few wild types that are new pullets, but they won't be big producers, not like the commercial breeds. The youngest commercial type birds are 3 years old. Yup, an aging flock. 

First egg showed up on January 26. First one. Then none. Then 3. Then 6. Right now I'm getting a steady 6 eggs a day. 4 from the commercials and 2 from wild hens. Next week or two I should be getting more, but I don't expect to see the 2 1/2 dozen a day I was getting last year. So we'll have to wait and see how many of the girls are still up to egg laying. 

As a reminder, the primary reason I have these chickens is for the manure. It's one of my primary fertilizer sources, right up there with the sheep and donkey. The eggs are simply a bonus. 

But ya know, maybe I should think about ordering a few new chicks. Can't hurt to add some young blood to the flock. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Red Banana

Checking my banana trees today, I saw that one of my new trees is blooming. And SURPRIZE... it's a red one. This is my very first red banana. Whoppie! 

See, not all bananas are yellow. I really didn't know that until I moved to Hawaii. Yes, I lived a very sheltered life. In fact, I thought all bananas were the same....the supermarket kind. I got a big education when I arrived here.

This tree was given to me. I have no idea what kind of banana it is. But I'm real interested to see what it's like to eat. It will be awhile before they are ripe, but I'll give you a report when that happens. 

This photo below was taken when the sun disappeared. The bananas look purple. Looks pretty cool. It would be fun if they really were that dark a purple, but it looks like they will be reddish in reality. Ha, who says photos don't lie! 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Quickie Rake Hanger

Here's a to make something to hang a rake on, in 10 seconds (longer if you're clumsy). 

Take two nails and one hammer. Pound the nails into the wooden post, far apart enough to fit the rake handle. Wallah, done! 

I use these two rakes back by the sheep pasture. The little one is for manure clean up, the larger one for everything else (mostly wind blown twigs). 

When I don't hang up tools, they end up just about anywhere. On the ground where they get stepped on or run over by the atv. Leaning on a fence, where the donkey knocks them over or chews on them. Up against a tree, whereupon I forget I left it there. I've been doing much better now that I have a spot where they get hung up between uses. I am not by nature a neat, organized person. But I sure do appreciate being able to find my rakes when I need them. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

First Lamb of This Season

Utah (aka: Ewe-Tahrapter) has become the first ewe to lamb this season. She brought her large ewe lamb to the feeding station this morning. Utah once upon a time was a people loving little sheep, but nowadays she is grown up, cautious and suspicious. When she joined the flock, she gave up her pet lamb ways. Now she's a mature, serious ewe, and a devoted momma. She wouldn't even bring the lamb close to me for inspection. 

So I got the see the new lamb from a distance, and only know that it's a little girl because she took a pee. Rather than force the issue, I'll allow Utah to be the protective mother. I'll get a chance to closely inspect the little lambakin later.