Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sweet Potato Whitefly

I'm always amazed that every year some new pest or disease finds my farm. So I'm constantly learning new things about how to grow food here in the tropics. Today while going back to harvest from a remote sweet potato patch, I immediately noticed something was wrong. First of all, the patch didn't look lush and happy. The growing tips were small, curled, and bunched. Below is a sample of what the tips looked like.....,,

Normally the growing tips have smooth, flat leaves fanning out, like the variety showed below......

On closer inspection, when I touched the vines, a plethora of small whitish flies jumped or flew this way and that. There were dozens of them flying from one vine tip. So I flipped some leaves over for a closer look. The bottoms were covered in small, light colored insects of varying size. Below, I've circles in yellow some of them for you to see. 
One flying adult happened to land on an adjacent potato patch and I managed to take a photo of it (circled below).........

Back at the house, I pulled up the Internet for a search. Conclusion : sweet potato whitefly. 

Control of this pest didn't sound optimistic. But then, I'm not a big user of chemical pesticides, so I immediately planned to fall back to my usual solution --- remove and destroy the infested plants. Then don't replant a susceptible crop in that area for a while. 

My plan was to harvest this patch anyway, but I did so very carefully so as to not spread the problem to other areas of the farm. None of the plant material went to the compost bins. Instead it went to the dump in order not to perpetuate the problem on the farm. It was carefully bagged, the bags sealed, and placed into the bed of the pickup truck for disposal. I next dumped several bags of fresh compost over the growing bed and immediately tilled it in. I'll then plant a non-suspectible crop. Don't know yet what I'll plant, but I want to get something growing that the whitefly doesn't like so as to starve out any survivors. Oh by the way, I was also careful not to spread the bugs back to other sections of the farm by immediately changing my clothes and showering. While the wind could easily be the culprit for introducing this pest to the farm, there's no need for me to help spread it around by being sloppy.

I also harvested every sweet potato that I found while removing the infested vines, or when rototillering. These went into a bucket, then taken to the chicken cookstove for making into mom's famous slop & glop. Boiling water was used to rinse out the bucket to kill any possible white fly eggs that tagged along. At least the chickens and piglets will benefit from this crop failure.   

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Some Misconceptions

In my travels I overhear some very interesting misconceptions about farming, gardening, homesteading, self sufficiency. Since I heard a new one this week, I thought I'd mention a few. I don't belittle anyone making these comments, because after all, they simply don't know. Perhaps they heard someone say it and are just repeating it, assuming it was true. But for folks living the lifestyle, it seems amazing what misconceptions exist out there. 

... "Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, so where do green eggs fit in?" I was asked this one and tried to explain that the color was only on the surface of the shell. It had nothing to do with what was inside. What the hen was eating, plus her lifestyle, determined the quality of the egg.....not the color. I don't think I was believed because......everybody knows brown eggs are better

... Another egg question - "Why do they pick small eggs. Why don't they just leave them in the nest until they get bigger?" People really don't have a clue about eggs production. 

... "Raising sheep and goats is bad on a homestead farm because they belch methane." The amount of methane being belched is minuscule compared to the amount of methane emitted by landfills and swamps/bogs. It's sort of like worrying because someone poured a glass of water into the ocean and you're claiming it's causing the ocean level to rise. 

... "Growing your own food is cheaper." Not for most people. If you need to buy land in order to produce your own food, you will never recoup the expense until you resell it at a profit. Equipment cost money to purchase and maintain. Seeds, fertilizer, and chemicals are an expense. Crop failures cost you if you need to go out a purchase food because of the crop failure. I'm not saying that raising your own is always more expensive, because there are people who can, and do, do it successfully. But for the non-self reliant person armed with some basic knowledge and capabilities, starting put growing your food is going to cost you. On top of that, if you are aiming to grow your own food, you may need to make some serious adjustments to your diet. Bread, beer, soda, candy, potato chips, canned cheese, etc don't grow in garden beds. And one more thought, you could earn/save more money having a part time job than by growing all your food when you don't know what you're doing or don't have an efficient system in place. You'd be better off just growing a few select things and buying the rest. 

... "I have 10 acres of grass. I'm going to save money and raise my own beef." Fencing in those 10 acres well enough to keep cattle in and predators out is going to be costly. You're going to need to buy and maintain hay feeders for winter use in most parts of the country. Plus shelter. Plus watering and feed troughs. Plus grain supplements occasionally. Plus basic veterinary care (vaccinations, deworming, fly control, etc). Plus slaughter or transport to slaughter. Plus rental of space in a large refrigerator for hanging the carcass. Plus butchering. Plus a freezer large enough to store an entire cow. Frankly, it's far cheaper buying good quality grass fed beef at Whole Foods. I buy my own beef from a local rancher. Oh, I didn't include the other common expenses -- the ag insurance you'll need to cover any accidents and damage your cows do if & when they get loose. Cars hitting stray cows usually ends in death of both cow and driver. Plus the medical expenses you may incur when the cow butts or kicks you, but hopefully doesn't kill you. Besides all of this, farm animals aren't pasture ornaments. They are work! 
     As an amusing side note, I overheard a tourist asking if the field of sheep and their lambs were cows. When told that they were sheep, the tourist was amazed. She was shocked to learn that lamb came from such small, dirty, hairy animals. And besides, why did they have udders just like a real cow? 

... "Red onions can't be organic because they are dyed." I never thought this when growing up, I guess because I saw onions growing in a garden. I guess some city people just assume red onions are dyed to make them the red color. 

... "There's something wrong with eggs when their yolks are orange." This happened to me. A customer returned what was left of a dozen eggs because the yolks were bright orangish rather than pale yellow. I tried to explain about the hens diet, & egg yolks, but I didn't get anywhere. I ended up simply refunding the money and was mildly amazed. 

..."Organic means chemical free." No. Simple as that. Organic farmers use plenty of chemicals, sometimes just as toxic as non-organic approved ones. Plus they tend to use them far more frequently due to that fact that they are less effective and shorter acting. In addition, they are allowed to use non-organic chemicals and methods if organic solutions aren't available. So I'm sorry to bust the misconception that organic means chemical free or toxin free. 

..."I'm going to grow my garden without using chemicals so that I have clean food." Good luck in Hawaii. Around here, it's only a matter of time before the bugs and diseases find you. I've been at this for over a dozen years and I'm still finding new problems in the gardens. Without using some sort of it soap solution, neem, sulfur, or whatever, I wouldn't be growing much food. I use what I deem to be fairly safe methods, but I simply can't be completely chemical free.
     Of course, it also depends upon one's definition of 'chemical'. I don't buy commercial chemical fertilizer, but my compost is made up of all sorts of nature's chemicals. I also use coral sand and  lava sand. Be they not chemicals too? 
... "Keeping a cat around the farm keeps it free of mice and rats." I guess it depends upon the cat. I presently have 10 cats but only one is an avid rat catcher. Two others are so-so at it. The rest are either totally inept or just freeloaders. I'm just saying, not all cats are good rodent killers. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Eruption Update

Fissure 8 is continues spewing lava, showing no signs of quitting or even slowing down. Photos show a 165 high spatter cone now surrounding the fountain. At times the fountain is grandly visible over the lip of the cone, other times it appears level with the top of the walls. To one side of the cone no wall has been built due the gushing lava, which forms a inspiring set of lava rapids, continuing on to a flowing lava river.....a river of melted rock. Contrary to Internet b-s, the lava is leaving the cone area at 17 mph (measured by USGS geologists), slowing down a bit as the lava river fans out. No, it's not going 45 mph, or 90 mph, depending upon which Facebook or forum you're reading. Then again, those purveyers of misinformation also think that the entire island (or state) is engulfed in lava. 

Above photo beautifully shows the spatter cone, lava fountain within, and the lava river tumbling through the wall.

Officially this eruption has claimed 617 houses, but the total in reality is higher. Many "homes" don't qualify as houses, so they don't get counted. Many homes aren't on the county tax map, thus not always being counted. Many more structures have also been destroyed -- barns, sheds, greenhouses, livestock shelters, garages, etc. Miles of fencing, plus their fence gates are gone. Around 9000 acres have been covered in lava. And about 9 square miles of new lava land has been created. The toll of possessions lost can never be accurately tallied. There is simply too much lost to be recalled. 

This eruption gives all the appearance of continuing for a while. Below is another view of fissure 8 and dramatizes just how close the eruption is to people's houses. Yes, it opened right in the middle of a housing development. 

Meanwhile, up at Kilauea summit, things have not been quiet. Hundreds of earthquakes occur all day long, many large enough to be felt locally. Halema'uma'u is collapsing into itself, dragging the crater walls into the hole along with surrounding portions of the main caldera. Tiny Halema'uma'u, which at one time I considered to be huge, is now massive and still enlarging. It presently compasses 9+ acres in the corner of the large caldera. Every day it grows larger, becoming an impressive pit crater. How amazing it has been to watch a pit crater being born!! 

The summit activity has more or less settled into a cycle of deflation and explosion. A small steam & ash explosion occurs around every 24 hours. People have become accustomed to the 24 hour cycle so much that they get on edge when it's overdue. The last few explosions have carried very little ash, generally just affecting the Ka'u desert, Kapapala Ranch, and Wood Valley areas. Other areas on Ka'u are getting only the merest dusting. 

Above shows the tiltmeter graft for the past week. The "heartbeat" of Halema'uma'u. People here check the daily tiltmeter readings to guess when the next explosion will occur. 

How will the summit eruption end? We still don't know. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

500+ Calves - Kapapala Ranch

Once again, I was privileged to be invited to Kapapala Ranch to witness the livestock being worked. This time was 500 calves due for branding, castrating, vaccinating, deworming, and tagging. Non-ranch people I talk with envision the cruel torture of calves, but it's nothing like that. Believe me. It's a fairly low key process where calves are kept distracted during the unpleasantries. The ranch owner oversees the operation and insists upon the calves being restrained & worked on for not more than 30 seconds each. I've timed some done at an incredibly short 12 seconds! Once released, they rejoin the other calves and watch the goings on while waiting for the gate to be opened so that they can rejoin the mom-herd. 

I've covered this sort of event before, so I won't repeat myself. But each time I come to Kapapala, I see and learn new things. So let's talk about that. 

In the past I've watched from behind the corral fence. A safe place for a novice to be. But after a few farm visits, I guess I've passed the test since we were invited to observe from inside the corral. In fact, we stood under the supply/hospitality tent, watchful to keep calves from entering the area and creating havoc. Only a couple of calves considered charging through the tent and we proudly prevented them from destroying the area. Ha! We had a job! ....happy to contribute to the event. I don't know if it was intentional that we had a job, but just steering two calves aside made us feel a useful part of the cowboy community. 

Ranching is often a family lifestyle here. Youngsters are around cattle from early on, watching, learning, and eventually helping. 

They learn to handle horses while still quite small, and seem to enjoy watching the calves, learning about their dispositions, body language, "cowness". The calves too seem curious about the tiny humans. 

I'm often asked by folks not living here if the Hawaiian cowboy still exists. Of course! Many also have jobs that have nothing to do with ranching, but they are skilled cowboys nonetheless. So for some it's a weekend job (and wow, what a dream part time job!), and for a few it's a lifestyle. 

And for the working farm dog, it's their entire existence. They live and breath to work. Even at an event like this where their help is not wanted, they find it hard to resist missing anything. They intently watch from the sidelines, wishing and hoping they'll be asked to join in. 

Thought I'd show you what they use to quickly vaccinate so many calves. Since each calf is only down for seconds, things have to be done quickly. Special syringe-like "guns" hold special made vials of vaccine or medications. A squeeze of the handle injects a pre-set dose. Zap. Done. Each calf received three injections. Because of the brief time limit allotted to work each calf, three people were needed for this task. They walked from calf to calf, administering their dose while others completed their own tasks. 

Extra syringe guns are kept ready in waiting inside a cooler.

Past readers have fixated upon the branding aspect of these work events. Branding is indeed by hot iron, a procedure that takes 3 seconds. The irons themselves need to be kept properly clean and heated. This ranch has homemade iron heaters that work off of propane. The one pictured below is shutdown already, so you don't see the flame inside the cylinder. But these homemade iron heaters work really good for the job at hand. 

Multiple branding irons are used so that there is a constant rotation and readiness of the irons. Each ranch has its own unique brand so that ownership can be quickly determined from a distance. No need to endanger a person by getting close to a touchy cow. 

I'm not going to get into the argument of the pros & cons of branding here, mainly because people have no personal experience working with wild ranch cattle. If you've never worked with them, you can't possibly understand the problems of dealing with them. 

Another procedure that is done with the calves is castration of the males. These calves are all fairly young, making the procedure quick and usually not bloody. A ultra sharp knife, an emasculator, and a skilled cowboy gets the job done incredibly quickly. Emasculator? That's the instrument that is used to remove the testicles in a manner that does not cause bleeding. It cuts off the testicles while at the same time crushing the blood vessel shut. If done by a skilled hand, it is quick, effective, basically bloodless. This event had several emasculator a ready for action. Extras were stored in surgical disinfectant until needed. 

Before I get lots of emails telling me how castration isn't needed, let me say this. Castrating the 250 or so young bulls will allow all 500+ calves get a chance to spend their time eating, relaxing, and being peaceful. Being around a bunch of horny young bulls is NOT a fun experience. Every cow is on edge, nervous, can't get the time to eat enough, to relax and sleep enough. It just ends up with a herd of skinny, poorly developing calves. Bull calves don't stop to eat. Heifer calves are constantly harassed. Not good. 

By lunchtime all 500+ calves were done and back with their moms. After watching the herd for a half hour to look for any calf having a problem (there were none), the herd is released back into the pasture.  On the couple of branding events I've attended, I haven't seen a calf get into trouble yet. But I'm sure it could happen, so skilled watchful eyes scan the calves before sending them and their moms back to graze. 

Speaking of eating, it's now lunchtime and time to feed the 50-60 helpers. This ranch produces a great BBQ lunch for everyone before they head home. 


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Starting Onions

"C" lives local to me and stopped me in the post office to ask about my onions. Being a total failure to being able to start his own onions, he wanted to know how I did it. Do here it goes.......

     I start onions from seed, sets, and seedlings. I diversify so that if one method temporarily fails, I have the other methods to get onions from. That might sound crazy to most gardeners, but here in the tropics, crop failures are common. By using a variety ways of doing things, I'm more apt to have steady food to put on the table. After all, my goal is to harvest food, not adhere to the "best" way of doing it. 

     Seeds --- I find that seeds are by far the slowest way to produce onions. In addition, they take a lot more care and attention. Initially I had a lot of problems trying to get seedlings successfully. I'd sow a pack of seeds and be lucky to get a dozen onion plants. I quickly saw that direct sowing out in the garden was a complete failure and waste of effort. Poor germination. Poor survival. And if the turkeys found the patch, they'd eat them all. Fencing off the turkeys wasn't going to improve the situation much, because I got very few surviving seedlings anyway. Ok--- back up---try something else. 
     Now I start the seeds in a small tray, then as they sprout I transplant them into a larger growing tray, spacing them about an inch apart to give them room. The room just makes it easier to pull them for transplanting later. They will grow in one of the mini greenhouses until they are 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, whereupon I transplant them out into a garden bed. Why bother with this? Because sowing directly out in the garden simply doesn't work for me, so I now use the mini greenhouses to produce my own transplants. And I like the idea of growing onions from seed I sow myself. 
     Sets --- In the past I've been given onion sets. They are an easy, though more expensive way to grow onions. Most of the onion sets for sale are long day types, so they don't bulb here in Hawaii. But they can produce thick shanks, looking like leeks, that are juicy and delicious. Sometimes the variety is an intermediate type and I get thick shanks with a wide bulby base. That's fine too. 
     Our local Wal-Mart usually has onion sets for sale each spring. And it's not unusual for friends to gift me a bag. I've always been successful with them, especially in soil enhanced with a generous amount of compost. 

     Seedlings/transplants --- I buy seedlings from Dixondale. I've always had great success with them. I usually order 10 bunches which gives me an abundance of onions. The biggest plantlets go right out into the garden beds immediately. Anything smaller than 1/8 inch in thickness goes into a grow-on tray in the mini greenhouse to plant out once they grow bigger. I seldom have much loss using these. 
    I've talked with other gardeners who say they have lots of loss using these seedlings. I'm not entirely sure what they are doing wrong. My method: 
...remove them from the shipping box immediately. them in a cool, dry, airy spot until I plant them. That means on the floor of my north facing lanai.
...plant them as soon as possible, usually within 2-3 days. 
...plant the larger ones directly into the gardens. Plant the smaller ones, less than 1/8" diameter, into growing trays in the mini greenhouses. 
...make a point to keep the soil lightly moist but not overly wet for the next week or so. 
...apply only a very light layer of mulch until the little onion plants have grown some. Don't bury them in mulch. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Eruption Update

In general, things are maintaining the status quo. Fissure 8 is continuing to fountain lava at about the same height, but it's not so visible because the spatter has built a cone around it that's a bit over 150' high now....and growing. Will it slow down or get bigger? When will it stop? No one knows. 

(USGS photo) Above, that's fissure 8 on the right and the lava river in the left. There's some beautiful photography coming out of this eruption. 

The lava river is still flowing with incredible volume, about 25,000 gallons of molten lava a second. Yes, a second. It ends up flowing into the ocean down at Kapoho and has created around 250 acres of new land. Hey, wanna buy cheap land in Hawaii? 

(USGA photo) Above, the new lava land. The red is pahoehoe lava flows down by the coast. At night the lava glow turns the clouds brilliant red. 

Kilauea summit is in a cycle of deflating then producing a minor explosion of ash and steam. It's happening about every 20 hours. The floor and walls of Halema'uma'u are gradually crumbling into the hole left by the receding lava. The caldera is also sinking. Giant ground cracks are appearing around the crater as the ground subsides. The summit is gradually caving in. As more material sinks into the throat of the volcano, earthquakes occur with the shifting and the cracking. Eventually the pressure gets too high and explosion of ash and stream, generally going 5,000 to 10,000 feet (as measured above sea level, and since the summit is already 4,000 feet high, so the plume isn't all that spectacular as it first sounds.) for the past several days Kilauea has been maintaining this cycle and no one knows what will happen next. 

(USGA photo) If you haven't seen Halema'uma'u before, you have nothing to compare this photo to. But take my word for it, the summit has changed dramatically. It's all sinking into a gigantic pit. 

By the way, each time the summit explodes, the people living in Volcano Village feel shaking like a 5.4 earthquake. It's not truly an earthquake, but that's what it feels like. Now imagine what's that like every night. Yup, the cruel sadistic gods are timing the explosion for between midnight and 5 am. 

Farm Update

This farm is gradually getting back to normal. The volcano eruption caused a bit of disruption due to the ash falls and increased vog, but I've learned to handle it. (I either needed to learn or give up in defeat. Learning was the option I choose.) The main .....and ongoing....... problem has been too much rain combined with too little sun. (As I'm writing this, of course it is raining and cloudy. Gee, what's new?!) This has led to excessive weed regrowth, grass that can't be mowed on schedule and thus overgrowing, garden soil that is often too wet to work, seedlings and crops that rot or mildew. It's been a piss poor year to date. But that's what farming can be like. It's not always a life of sun & roses. 

Although the rain guage is still registering almost daily moisture of some small amount, the ground is actually workable. How about that! No longer mud. We are seldom getting sunshine, but there's enough now to grow most crops, albeit slow growing. I've been sowing a few test plots to determine which crops will grow under the current conditions, and some are doing adequately. So it looks like I'm willing to risk planting again. I've noticed that other farmers in the area are coming to the same conclusion. I've seen them out in their fields, trying to get crops restarted. 

Although the farm has been basically on pause for several months, I'm still getting food for our own table. But I'm not getting enough excess for selling and trading. What's harvestable? 
...Assorted greens -- Okinawan soinach, cholesterol spinach, pipinola and sweet potato tips, chaya, assorted Chinese greens, radish greens, onion tops. 
...Assorted herbs are harvestable for home cooking. 
...Plenty of mamaki and lilikoi leaves for making tea. And plenty of coffee beans stored away. 
...There are still potatoes and sweet potatoes stored in the ground. Plenty. 
...The cherry tomatoes are producing enough for salads several times a week. 
...The onion crop is just coming in, and while there are plenty of onions, they are small. I'm used to hardball to softball sized onions, and these are hardball or smaller. So I'm getting a lot less onions this year. To compensate I will need to grow non-bulbing green onions for the rest of the year. 
...I'm getting a bumper crop of pineapple guavas, I guess due to all the rainfall. Normally I don't bother with them, but since there are insanely plentiful, I've been collecting them for making syrup and adding to my breakfast yogurt (I've been freezing them). We also like them fresh in a mixed salad. 
...The banana trees are producing the best I've ever seen them. Guess they like to extra rain. So we are getting enough bananas for both us and the livestock. 
...Pipinolas are doing really great right now. Plenty for both us and the animals. 
...While the pineapples aren't ready for harvesting, I can see that we should get a nice crop as long as diseases don't get them. Many of the plants are flowering. 
...Papayas are coming in steadily, though not overly abundantly. There's enough for our needs. 
...The taro looks good though I suspect the corms will not make good smooth pa'i'a because of the excess water in the soil. It might be lumpy. I've noticed in past years that my dry land taro does better with steady moisture but not the off and on again deluges. We are not poi eaters but I do eat pa'i'a (pounded taro corm without the water added like when making poi) pounded with herbs. And we also eat some of the leaves and stems occasionally in certain dishes. The rest that we don't eat goes into the chicken and pig food cook pot. 
...The lilikoi is just coming into bloom right now and the vines are loaded with buds. Looks like a good crop coming this year. 

Lots of things are missing. No broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, carrots, peas, beans. The chard, squash, and cucumbers all went moldy. The sweet peppers rotted, though the little hot ones that we don't eat actually are doing ok. The small amount of corn I tried molded in the ear. A total loss. 

In the livestock quarter, things are fine. We have enough eggs and meats. And we have been given assorted cheeses to be "paid" for with future veggies. Gee, I'm in debt. Swore I'd never go into debt again in my life, but here we are.... in cheese debt. 

We're doing fine. I'm cheating by buying a variety of veggies at the local farmers market. But if we had to survive on just what the farm produced or traded for, we could be doing fine. We'd just be seeing less variety on the dinner table. And since that last time I talked about being food independent, we've developed a cheating habit. We now eat Greek yogurt with our daily breakfast. We both feel physically better adding the yogurt to our diet, so I plan to keep it up. We will just plan to produce a bit more eggs or resale veggies to keep the financial balance. The farm is producing our food either by growing it, trading for it, foraging or hunting it, or selling excess and using that money to buy what we don't produce ourselves. 

All in all the farm is progressing. Most of the compost bins are cycling, producing plenty of fertilizer. The chicken flock is definitely producing fertilizer, believe me! Boy, can those birds process food! The young lambs are growing, and the ones I sold have already left the farm. The two piglets are getting bigger and friendlier. I've just spent two days mowing the weeds down in preparation of rototilling the garden beds. I also found and eliminated two yellowjacket nests......ouch! Yes, that's how I located them in the first place. I got a number of stings. 

Now that I'm getting back to farm production, I'll start posting about how I'm doing things here. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Crab Claw Stinkhorn?

Found a new fungus in the farm. 

It's a star shaped fungus with three fingers. I think it's one of the crab claw stinkhorns. This one is just about pau. Shame I didn't find it yesterday when it would have been fresher. Would have made a nicer photo. 

This one was growing in some twiggy mulch. It's fun to see what grows out of some of my various mulches. You just never know what will pop up next. 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Visited Pahoa Today

My intention wasn't to drive through Pahoa today, or to get close to the eruption site. Actually, I was heading to Hilo with a friend for each of us to get a dozen little tasks done that gave been accumulating for some time now. Trips to Hilo are not taken lightly, considering the cost of the gasoline plus 1) the risk of driving past Kilauea summit, and 2) the exposure to much thicker vog than we are use to. But go, we did. And don't ask me how we came to the decision to sidetrack to Pahoa, but it seemed like a nifty idea at the moment. The excuse was, "Lets check out the Mexican restaurant for lunch." Sounded good, even though it was only 10 am. And no, in case you're curious, we never found the restaurant nor stopped for what would have been a very, very early lunch. 

Wow, what a thrill. Perhaps we're just easily entertained, but to see the site from a distance was amazing. 

From a distance it looked all the world like a storm with a funnel cloud. But that's no tornado under that dark cloud. It's the fissure 8 eruption. Because it was daytime, you can't see any red. But at night, I'm told by the locals, the sky is brilliant red. Meanwhile over by Kapoho where the ocean entry is, a broad swatch of the skyline is nothing but dark grey cloud, looking like a nasty thunderstorm heading this way. 

I had "E" ask me, "How aware are the people in Pahoa of the eruption? Can they see it? Or is it life as usual?" No, life surely isn't normal. The sky makes it quite evident that there's an eruption going on only a mile so from town. Those clouds are never out of sight. Plus the main roads have roadblocks. Plenty of police and National Guard are visible. No, daily life isn't normal. 

We drive down to the two roadblocks, waved a friendly hello to the officials, the. Headed on toward Hilo. 

Latest map: 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Doing Good to Feel Better

This past few weeks have been bummers. Not there was bad stuff happening in the farm that was out of the usual sort of happenings. Oh yes, "bad" things do happen, but I roll with most of it. Animals get sick....., I treat them. Volcanic ash threatens to cause problems.......I clean it up and/or wear a dust mask. ATV tire develops a leak..... I fix it. Cabbage and carrot seedlings rot away...... I'll seed more in another week and hope for sun. Grass has been continually too wet to I weedwack it down and hope to mow it up if and when things dry out. Piglet digs out of pen...... I show Adam the benefits of having trained piglets to come to "peeeg-peeeg-peeeg" for their dinner. Piglet successfully back in pen with no effort. And on and on. No, the farm isn't the bummer. It's the continuing devastation being caused by Mother Nature's volcano. It's the hundreds of homes destroyed, livelihoods gone, people's dismay. I'm not experiencing their loses, but I empathize with them. There's little I can do to help, though help I have, within my means. 

Today I found that volunteering with Advocats at another spay/neuter clinic did much to help temporarily relieve my funk. While I can't do a whole lot more to help the Puna folks, I can help a few more feral and semi-feral cats have better quality lives. Some of the cats we saw today have been dealt bad hands from life.....through no fault of their own. Some had picked up parasites, acquired injuries, were sick, were debilitated from having kittens, were skinny. We could help these cats have better lives. It felt very good to be making a very significant difference in the life of an innocent creature. 

My inner spirit has been healed a bit today. I notice that some of the tension I've been harboring is gone tonight. That is good. This type of volunteering is the sort of thing that is good for me. The next spay/neuter clinic I'll be helping at will be then end of June. I'm already looking forward to it. I think I'll sleep good tonight. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ash Cleanup

Now that Halema'uma'u is taking a rest from ash erupting, we put the effort into cleaning up ash. Since my last mention of ash clean up, lots of you have offered suggestions. Thanks! Your ideas were great!

Here's the ash that we're trying to clean up. Enough collected on our solar panels for me to collect some as a souvenir. A lite dusting looks whitish grey, but a pile of it shows its true color -- moderate ashy grey. 

First of all, "W" directed us to a pressure washer that he thought would work with our marine pump. 

By using a different hose than we normally use ........we hooked up the pressure washer using a 25' hose, 1" diameter hose.....the washer works just fine. A standard 100' 5/8" garden hose couldn't deliver enough water fast enough. This is a small pressure washer but it is doing a good job for our needs. We were able to clean the solar panels fairly well. 

It blasted the black ohia tree gunk off, and it appeared to take the ash off too. But when the panels dried, they still had a light covering of ash. That ash is really persistent. So we moved on to the next suggestions. Many people suggested hardwood floor mops. And one friend actually presented us with a gift of a mop this past weekend. It's a flip mop for hardwood floors. We gave it a try......

Worked super!!!!! Having blasted off 99% of the ash, the mop was able to clean the panels the rest of the way. 

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! 


Eruption Update

Things at the summit are generally quiet. 
No plume coming from Halema'uma'u. 

Earthquakes are still occurring but at a lower frequency, SO2 emissions are down. Very little ash is reported downwind. Recent earthquakes have damaged the park, so repairs will be in order before the park can reopen.

Above, this is the patio of the overlook area outside the Jagger museum. Normally packed with tourists, it now has numerous cracked areas. 

Down along the coast right by the sea arch, a long ground crack has developed, along with numerous smaller ones. I doubt that anyone will be allowed to view the sea arch again. 
Three park buildings have structural damage, so will be out of commission for awhile.....including the Jagger observatory. 

Meanwhile at the eruption site in Puna, destruction continues. The massive lava flows continues. 
Fissure 8 is still continually fountaining lava, though at a slightly lesser degree. 
The massive lava flow has reached the coast, destroying much of Vacationland and Kapoho. Hundreds of homes and structures lost. Many farms destroyed. 

Kapoho Bay is no more. It's completely filled in with a massive lava delta which currently extends 0.7 miles past the original coastline. 

And we're not done yet. 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Record Earthquakes

Kilauea summit may look like it's quiet, but it's not. Today there was a record 500 hundred earthquakes at the summit area in the past 24 hours. The largest was a 5.5

All those red circles are earthquakes that occurred between 3:30 this afternoon and 5:30 pm (right now as I write this entry). The red circles are right atop Kilaeua summit -- specifically Halema'uma'u. 

The above satellite image may be difficult for you to interpret, but it shows that the active vent and slumping takes up over half of what Halema'uma'u looked like a month ago. What you can't see is that the caldera itself is also sinking, up to 5 feet in some locations. 

Below is a photo captured from drone video footage, looking down the throat of Halema'uma'u. It shows the side walls caving in to fill the throat with rocky rubble and dust. This vent use to be 1/10 th the size that it now is. Until these past couple days, the steam plume coming from the vent was thick and aggressive. You could not get an image down the throat. Now the plume is essentially gone. Just some steam, but plenty of volcanic gas. 


I just got notice that there has been a minor explosion at the summit vent, causing an ash cloud that rise to 8000'. 

Drats. I must have something to do about causing it because I just spent the day cleaning up the ash from the solar panels, vehicles, farm equipment, and farm buildings. Got everything nice and clean. And here comes some more ash! Drats. 

Eruption Map & Photo

OThe main, wide lava flow still trundles onward through the Kapoho area. Last report it was only 400 yards from the coast. It appears to be poised to wipe out both Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland. There's a whole lot of homes there. Only a miracle shutdown of fissure 8 may save them, and the chances of that don't look favorable at the moment. 

Eruption Continues

Although Kilauea summit has settled down somewhat, the lava eruption in Puna has been going on full speed ahead. The current lava flow is a monster. It extends over a half mile wide. It's deep aa lava. Totally an unstoppable force, it has overrun the last access road, and now is destroying one farm and building one after the other. 

The amount of lava is mind boggling. The entire front is moving, creeping along. It's heading for the densely housed residential area of Kapoho Beach Lots and Vacationland Subdivision. Those two housing areas on the right of the photo below are in eminent danger. In the next few hours, they may be completely overrun by lava. 

(Below, a satellite photo from google maps) 

More sadness. One of my friends just informed me that their newly purchased home is gone, destroyed by the lava. While it's a complete financial loss, they are not in desperate straits. Others aren't as fortunate. Via the coconut wireless we are hearing news of suicides. The tragedy of this eruption just grows and grows. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Brief Update

I have a morning of no rain, so I'm busy catching up on tasks. So here's a very brief update in what's happening with the eruption. 

The summit has dramatically scaled back on the plume production and ash emissions. In fact, I've seen almost no ash in the farm since at dawn yesterday morning. The earthquakes at the summit continue. 

Mean while down in Puna, things are still aggressively erupting. Fissure 8 is sending sustained fountains 200' into the air. 

That lava is following a downward grade, heading for Kapoho. Presently it's about 1/2 mile from cutting the access road. If the flow keeps going, by tomorrow anyone who hasn't evacuated will be trapped.