Monday, August 27, 2018

10+ Things My Own Animals Have Taught Me

(This is a ramble of thoughts. It has nothing to do with homesteading......well, not directly, that is. So this is just a warning that some of you may not be interested in this meandering set of thoughts. Feel free to delete.)

The first thing I want to say is that I see animals for what they are. They are simply individuals trying to get by with life. They aren't cuddly biological toys. They aren't nature's regal icons. They aren't empowered by attributes, assigned to them by animal right activists, animal huggers, or agencies working the raise money, "humane societies" attempting to attract supporters. They are just individuals that got born, try to live as comfortably as they can, live within the rules that govern them, and do what comes naturally. 

I've always been animal oriented. It's part of me that comes naturally. As a result I've learned from them, just as they've learned from me. 

I see a lot of people who list the top 10 things to learn from animals. It's the current "thing" - making lists of the top ten of something. Some items on the list I agree with, others I believe are misinterpreted. Either those people never lived with enough animals, or they mistakenly assign behavior to their animals that are inaccurate. But you know, perhaps you will view my own list with the same attitude. Perhaps you'll say that I'm wrong. But in truth, I'll only be wrong in your own opinion, your own interpretation. As I've stated, I'm a realist, not a spiritual animal hugger. 

... Life's basics are important. Food. Shelter. Health. Stable environment. Sex. Every animal focuses on this. The fluff is superfluous. They don't care what color or style their housing is. Nor if the latch on the gate is the latest techie "in thing". Nor if their food arrives in the latest model, jazzed up ATV. They don't need their collar to be the latest fashion nor cost $500. They don't consider what the neighbor's think.
... They live by rules. The rules vary from species to species. Most rules come from their environment and their instincts, but they may also have individual imposed rules if they are herd/pack type animals. 
... Friendship matters. There are different levels of friendship. They can have both casual friends and lifelong true friends. True friendship lasts a lifetime. 
... Community matters, depending upon the situation. Being part of a community can help one get through life easier. Some species are designed around the community aspect (herds, flocks, packs), while others are not. 
... Race (that is, different breeds of their species) matters little, oft times not at all. Color matters even less. 
... Life is about your interaction with your environment plus a whole lot of luck. Life happens. Some individuals have the genes to take advantage of a situation, or the status and community support to do that....others don't. That's life. 
... Life isn't fair. Actually I should say, life happens, both the good and the ugly. But the bad stuff happens even if you're good and live by the rules. Shit just happens sometimes.
... You are what you are born. A carnivore is simply that, a carnivore. Same for an omnivore, a vegetarian. They accept who and what they are. They don't try to be something that they are not. 
... Love is unconditional. They seldom demand that their mates change to please them. They don't set conditions for their "marriages". They are always happy to see their mates (or owners) if they reciprocate.
... Take a nap. No apologies. 
... Live in the present. While recalling the past or planning the future is important to most animals, living for the moment has incredible value. 
... Be curious but cautious about new things. Investigate. Observe. Watch body language and nature signs. 
... Touch. My animals body-touch all the time. They rub and touch each other, they want to touch me in one fashion or another every time we greet. Touch is powerful. 
... Enjoy the outdoors. Feel the sun, the shade, the wind. Smell the air, soil, rocks, water, plants, animal life. Be connected. 
... Keep yourself groomed. They groom themselves several times a day. 
... Develop a routine. A routine helps promote contentment, general wellbeing, overall happiness. 
... Be silly if you feel like it. Don't worry about what others will think. 
... Live in reality. Religion, spirits, superstition, "woo-woo" isn't part of the real world. 
... Not everyone is born with a sunny disposition. From what I've observed with my animals, it's a combination of nature and nurture. 
... Don't waste time hanging with the negative individuals. Make your bonds with the positive ones. 
... You are what you eat. What you eat has a huge bearing on your health, both physical and mental. Eat what your body needs to be fit and healthy. 
... Stay active. 
... Look to the future. I've hear people say that animals don't understand future. I totally disagree. They look forward to mealtime, look forward to enjoyable routines. I've had animals that knew Saturday and Sunday were different from weekdays, and acted accordingly. They anticipated various activities, such as car trips, bath day, etc. They look to their future with hope. 
... When there is no hope of a future, it's time to die. I've seen it in their eyes. When hope is gone, they are ready. I don't mean when they are depressed then they should be killed. Or when they are in a bad situation that they need to get out of. But when they know, when they have lost all hope of having a future and that situation can't be changed, then it's time. Dragging things on and on, as humans are apt to do, make no sense to them. 

Things I've learned NOT to do......
... Don't bite my neighbor in the face. Just because you're in a bad mood or didn't get a cookie, biting the next guy in the face isn't a good idea, and really just ruins your day. "Bite in the face" = yell, threaten, attack, or otherwise display negative behavior. 
... Don't be bossy, moody, and aggressive. My animals avoid or shun those types, so unless I want to lose all my friends and acquaintances, acting like that is a majorly bad idea. 
... Don't tease. It's not appreciated, can cause severe emotional damage, plus ruins a good relationship. 

Animals have taught me to look at myself. What am I? I am a primate. Thus I have a innate need for touch, for love, for friends. I am instinctually tribal. I am an omnivore. I have certain environmental needs. I can see the past, present, and future. I harbor certain innate fears that I needed to learn to overcome or control, such as suspicion of the dark, of strangers, of strange places, of change, of the unknown and unexplained. I am who I was born and taught, but I have moved beyond that. Unlike some of my animals, I can change myself. Change isn't easy for a primate, but with incentive and desire, it can be accomplished. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Just For Fun

"H" emailed to ask me what I do for fun. The devil in me wants to say, work on the farm. Yes, I really like this. In a way it's fun. But I guess it doesn't really qualify as what most people think as fun. 

So, what do I do for fun? with the farm dogs. There's great joy in playing with the dogs. Noodles and Spotz are youngsters,and their sidekick, Dexter, is still a kitten. It's great to take them for walks on the farm and have them play, wrestle, chase. What a zest they have for life! They keep me laughing. The other farm dogs are older and less inclined to play, but I still enjoy walking with them through the woods. with the baby pigs. They're just as much fun as a litter of puppies. I routinely let the young pigs out so that they can frolic with me and the farm dogs. For about 15 minutes it's fun & games. 
...make crazy yard art. I've made stick figures, funny road sign posts, a mini pond out of an upturned tree stump. I had flowers growing in old boots and shoes until they rotted into nothingness. Yard art is fun, especially if it's silly and would offend my mother's generation. 
...block print t-shirts, pillow cases, towels. Making original blocks is not only creative, but really fun. I can make any design I fancy. I'm presently considering block printing on my barn for decoration. 
...wear crazy socks. Socks with wild colors and designs bring either smiles to people's faces, or looks of shock or judgmental disapproval. Either way, it's fun. I used to take life too I wear crazy socks when I have them. 

Above, current collection. Time to hunt for new additions. 

...paint my barn really weird. I haven't shown this to you yet because I'm not done. But wait until you see that barn! It's crazy! It's really fun. 
...dye Noodles weird colors. I never planned on getting a white dog, but it happened. He's the perfect canvas for some fun art. 4 weeks ago we dyed a purple mohawk atop his head. 2 weeks ago, his topknot was bright green. This coming Sunday we're thinking about going with pink for his topknot and some other color for his ears. Sundays he goes with us to KaLae Coffee where he visits with his doggy friends while we share coffee and cookies with our human friends. Noodles has been brainwashed into thinking its grand to be dyed. He gets all excited and eager to jump into the car after a dye job. He knows he's heading to visit his friends, who aren't the least bit judgmental about his strange colors. Yes, dogs are better than most humans, aren't they. They are better at figuring out what's important and what's not. Cookies are important. Different race and appearance isn't. 
...snorkel. I don't do this enough as far as I'm concerned. But hubby doesn't like to swim, so I'm limited as to my opportunities. But when I get the chance, I'll squeeze in a day here and there. 

Fun is what you make it. I don't need video games, a wild party, nor amusements parks in order to have fun. If given a chance, my farm and community provide plenty of opportunities for having fun.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Final Hurricane Post

The hurricane is moving away from Hawaii. It's made its predicted turn, actually sooner than expected. That's good news for the other islands. But the storm is still packing a lot of rain. This afternoon 2 more inches of rain drenched the farm. But in the east side of the island, places had been slammed with rain. 

Here's a chart listing the 48 hour rain fall recorded at various official weather stations.....,
The numbers are impressive! Boy, that's rain. 

There have been a number of minor landslides. Minor in the sense that they didn't carry away cars or houses. But they are a real nuisance since we don't have alternative roads to take in some cases. This photo shows one of the more significant slides...,,,,
Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a tropical storm. It's quickly losing strength. I guess that means we will be just seeing more rain, but no danger of heavy winds. Good. Enough is enough. So unless something significant happens, this is my final hurricane report. We're all safe and sound in the farm. 

Friday Hurricane Update

Rain. Rain. Rain. That's it, folks. 

The hurricane has turned out to be a long extended rain storm for my location. Over 6 inches of rain, total, so far. That's nothing. And since the hurricane has stalled, we're looking at several more days of rain to come from this storm. Luckily the hurricane has stayed offshore, so there's been no damaging winds. Just rain. Our brisk tradewinds are far stronger than what I've gotten so far from this hurricane. 

The east side of Big Island is taking the brunt of the rain. While the national news is reporting over 30 inches of rain, that's only in one location. Most areas are getting far less. But 10"-20" is nothing to sneeze at. It's still a lot of rain! 

Flooding. Again, the national news makes it sound like there's major flooding all over. Yes, there is flooding. But it is in locations where flooding is no surprise. We have drainage gulches here that are for the purpose of drainage.....thus called drainage ditches. The natural gulches act as grand drainage ditches, and they're presently gushing with rain runoff. They are doing their job. Most flooding is occurring in low areas, or areas were human activity has interfered with nature's drainage system. The only area where water is accumulating on my farm is where a previous owner bulldozed, thus compacting the cinder and crushing small lava tubes. I've since created drainage channels, so that wet area isn't flooding anymore. I'm not aware of any flooding in my region except where people have blocked or ruined drainage systems. 

Landslides. There been some here and there. None in my area. The slides have been small, but large enough to put debris in the roadways. Until they can be cleared off, the roads are closed. That wouldn't be a big deal on the mainland, but here on Big Island it's a major headache. You see, we don't have very many roadways here and often no way to get around blockages. 

So, the hurricane is lying offshore. When it starts moving again, the weather guys are expecting it to make a left hand turn away from the islands. I hope for Oahu and Kauai's sake, the turn occurs sooner rather than later. Even if the hurricane downgrades to a 1, they surely don't need to take a hit. 

11:00 am map update........

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Another Quick Update for my Friends

We are fine. It's 8 pm and we've had another 2 inches of rain since 7 am. That's not bad at all. It has been raining off and on all day. Very little wind. It's just gently blowing the trees. So far, so good. We can hear the sound of strong wind that's somewhere, but it's either higher up the mountain, over toward Oceanview, or simply higher in the sky. It's not here on the farm. 

"E" texted me to ask if we are out of electricity. No. One of the benefits of being off grid is that we don't notice when the world around us loses power. Our system keeps on functioning. But we haven't had sun in two days, so tomorrow we will need to run the generator in order to charge up the battery bank.

I drove into Naalehu today and it was a ghost town. Only 4 businesses open -- Shaka Restaurant, the Wiki gas station, Ace Hardware, and the Will & Grace grocery. The bank, bakery, post office, school, and everything else closed. No tourists. No locals either. I was the only vehicle in the parking lot. Everyone must be at home honkered down for the storm.  

There are spots around the island that have gotten heavy rain, up to 19 inches, but most areas are 2" to 8". Here and there are reported small landslides. The gulches and waterfalls are raging, draining the excess rainwater. Low lying areas of Hilo are flooded, but that's no surprise. 

"L", the answer is no. The rain won't put out the volcano eruption. The eruption is massive, the lava extremely hot and forceful. The rain, no matter how heavy, will not effect the eruption at all. It's like spitting into the ocean and expecting it to affect the tides. Anyway, the eruption is paused for now. No new lava flows. But the rain should help control the wildfires that we have been seeing. While it may not totally extinguish the fires, it will surely help contain them and get things under control. It will also discourage new fires for a few days. 

Morning Weather

I'm still here. We're fine. 

The hurricane's travel has slowed down, so it looks like we are in for rain for the next several days. Other than that, this looks like an ordinary storm. No raging winds so far. No long hours of torrential rain. Overnight we did get lots of rain, close to 3 inches, that came in waves. Because we sleep under a metal roof, each wave was loud enough to wake us up. It made for poor sleeping. 

The hurricane is still off the coast and creeping it's way up along the chain of islands. But the latest projection for its track shows things being a bit different. Perhaps Kauai will miss the worst of this storm. They surely don't need it!  But for right now this morning, the hurricane is pretty much exactly where they predicted it would be. And all but Kauai/Niihau will be visited as anticipated. 

This is the latest projected path.............
This was a previous projection............ far, so good. But we haven't seen the worse parts of this storm yet. We could be seeing strong winds later today. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Just a Quick Update

The day was spent getting ready for the hurricane. I'm not sure if the farm will see strong winds, but I'm anticipating heavy rain. As of 7 pm, the rain gauge is already over 1 inch. 

The surf along the coastline is already kicking up. Lots of white water and big waves. All the coastal parks are closed for safety reasons. Yes, there are idiots who will try to surf in this storm. People along the coast are expecting flooding, so hopefully they've taken steps. 

Here on the farm we made some basic preparations. The water catchment system has been disconnected so that rushing water won't damage the already full tanks. All tanks are covered so that they won't be adversely affected by hurricane winds. Most items have been put away or tied down. I did not cut the greenhouse plastic film, hoping it will weather the wind. If necessary, I can cut it later, but I really don't wish to lose it. 

The livestock are ready. The equipment stowed inside. Adam has a dry, secure cabin for him and his pets. As for his "stuff", he will be spending the weekend finding it around the property if we get heavy winds. I guess he's going to learn the hard way about how strong hurricane winds can be. 

I don't anticipate significant flooding on the farm even if we get heavy rain. The land drains well enough except for the pahoehoe area. That area might get a couple inches of standing water but it's no big deal. It will eventually drain. 

My only concern is that trees will come down. With the ground saturated, combined with heavy winds, the big trees might be in trouble. It's not the coming down of the trees themselves that concerns me. If the topple, I can deal with cutting them up afterward. I'm just concerned that they may hit something important. I hope not. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hurricane Lane

The entire State of Hawaii is due to be affected by the latest hurricane coming our way. Hurricane Lane. It's due to pass south of the islands, but will bring high winds, high surf, and plenty of rain. 

11 o'clock this morning, I noticed a change in the winds. Ah, the leading edge of the storm. It's a warning to get ready. I'm as ready as I plan to be. The farm will ride it out. Just what it needs, more rain. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Got The T-Shirt

Things on the farm are at a wet standstill, yet again. Mornings are starting out clear and sunny. By 10 it's raining. Blag. Can't mow. Can't rototill. Weeding and chopping brush in the rain isn't appealing. Can't do much of any farm oriented stuff. So it looks like housecleaning is the only option. Blag. 

So I don't have any farm tales to relate. Wanna hear how I'm doing at re-organizing the closets and cleaning under the bed? Ha, didn't think so. But while getting things back in order in the clothes closet, I drifted into musing about the places some of my shirts and socks have come from. You see, I've become a wearer of souvenir style t-shrts, that kind that say "I❤️ NY" or "Peggy Sue's BBQ". I've got shirts from Bejosh Farm, Stonehenge, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon, Maui, and dozens of other places. Each one of these shirts comes with a story, comes with loads of memories. Every time I wear them, I remember. I relive the feelings, the memories associated with where the shirt came from. They are just as good as looking at vacation photos, perhaps better. Photos get stored in a box in a closet, never to be looked at again for years. The t-shirts are worn on a regular basis. That's better. 

Last week I was pleased to add another shirt to the closet. You see, some dear friends recently moved to Summerville Missouri. I've not been there, yet. But they sent us t-shirts from their local cafe. Wow, isn't that cool?!?! Though I have no idea what the Rusty Gate Cafe looks like, I do remember what my friends look like. Seeing these shirts will instantly bring back years of memories. I will be able to embrace their friendship once again, although by proxy. Summerville is a long distance away, but hopefully someday I'll be able to take these shirts there to visit their "birthplace". In the meantime, I'll wear them and remember our friendship. 

When I see people wearing souvenir t-shirts, I often ask if the shirt has some meaning to them. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But when it does, I'll often see a smile or a look in the eye that says the wearer is remembering. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018


Snow in August in Hawaii. Yup. 

These photos came from the webcams atop Mauna Kea.....

The snow wasn't your fluffy type, but more like sleety snow, so I'm told. But it made things white. 

I've been up on Mauna Kea when it's flurried in July. It's exciting to see the snow coming down around you when you when you know that in a couple of hours you'll be walking along the hot sandy beach far below you. You get kind of giggly and giddy, and it's not from the oxygen deprivation. Snow in Hawaii during the summer is something I'm still not use to. I don't know if there were any lucky tourists up there, but if there were, they got to experience something very special. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Pig's Tail

Call me stupid, but I never thought to look at my pigs' tails before. Having been raised in the city and only seen pigs as drawn in children's story books, I accepted the curly pig tail as a truism. Well hold onto your's not! What a revelation for this fairly new farmer. 

I was feeding the little pig herd today and for some reason noticed their tails. It was basically the one that was straight and held horizontally that caught me attention.......
Where's that curl? Was there something wrong with this piglet? 

A quick check of the next piglet in line showed the curly tail I expected to see. It curled to the left.....

Little sister next in line also had a curly tail, but it curled to the right.....
One of the other piglets also had this type tail. 

Next one at the feeding dish had a straight tail held up in a sickle shape over its rump.......

Shelly's tail hangs to the left in a loose drooping curl.....

And Lava has a weird tail, a horizontal corkscrew to the left.......

Now that I've become "educated" about pigs tails, I'll most likely notice what sort of tail my next pigs have, assuming that there will be future piglets, that is. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Fencing in the Goats

With Francis the Goat having figured out how to jump over then fence, the task now is to come up with a working solution to prevent that. I'm looking into something that the farm can provide, as apposed to buying fencing. I could always resort to a hotwire (and perhaps I will need to do that in the long run), but I'd rather try something more self reliant. A few weeks ago while visiting another farm, I saw how they tied bamboo poles to a field fence in order to give privacy. Toying with this idea, I morphed it a bit into a fence height extender. 

Introducing the guava pole fence extender...........

Simple. Easy. Cheap. And hopefully when it's completed, it will look "woodsy & farmy", plus keep the goats inside their pasture pen. 

I have quite a nice guava pole production area which I've been harvesting for years to make garden markers, trellises, barrier fences, etc. Now those saplings are really going to come in handy. 

Above, a pile of poles ready to weave into the fence. This is going to take a lot of poles! 

With the guava pole forest being very crowed, the saplings grow tall, somewhat straight, with very few side branches. Perfect for garden poles. Looks like they will be good for this project too. 

Adam has been gathering poles, a slow process but not all that difficult. Their size and shape don't need to be perfect for this task. They just have to be thin enough to weave into the fence. 

No fasteners needed. Just weave them into the fence and they stay in place. Presently Adam is spacing them apart several inches, basically using one pole per fence square. We shall see if this is close enough to thwart a goat. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Goats Are Challenging

Having dairy goats has been interesting, fun, but also challenging. But then, having goats is always challenging. They are, after all, an interesting critter. 

Calico, the mom, is a real sweetheart. Her first two kids, not so little anymore, are curious and mischievous. Recently I moved them into a new pasture. It didn't take them long to discover the uprooted tree stump left over from the windstorm of a couple years ago. 

Playing king of the mountain instantly became the favorite past time. The only problem with this was that the stump is a bit too close to the fenceline. 

Francis discovered he could give a mighty leap from atop the stump and be out of the pen. What-ho, what fun! Mr Destructo was on the loose! That necessitated enticing him back into the old pasture again in order to confine him. And that necessitated returning the rest of the herd to the old pasture with him. 

Next job on order..........beef up the fence height to keep the goats in. I have a couple of options on how to do that, but I've decided to try something I saw at another farm. By using guava poles, I'm adding slats to the fence and adding height. I'll show you how that's is going along in my next posting. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Next Garden Site Rescued From The Grass

The morning was a non-farm event. Had to run to the pharmacy to pick up hubby's meds, then to the local business office to drop off a UPS package. Hit the Ace Hardware for a few supplies for the farm. Well, I suppose you could call that a farm related event. Then decided to go help my next door neighbor by cleaning up the inside of his "house' and mowing around it. He's been away for a few months and will be returning this weekend. So it's nice to get things ready for his return. You see, we help each other out and this is one thing I can do to return the favors. It's called, being neighborly! 

So.....every day isn't 100% farming. I just wish that it was. If I could spend every waking minute working about the farm, that would be paradise. But life is what it is, and it's not just farming. 

Lunch. Run get the car inspected. Back to the farm. 

The afternoon was more my style. I tackled a 22' by 18' area of the old garden. Using the lawnmower, I harvested all the grass for mulching material. The grass was really thick and tall, so it took three passes to get the job done. Once with the mower on the highest setting, once on a mid setting, and lastly at the lowest setting. The last pass scalped the area quite close. All the clippings got used on the current gardens. I've seen people try to do a task like this with one pass with the mower. Gee, that's too much work. And it's tough on the mower. I'd rather take the extra time making multiple easier passes. To each there own, I guess. 

Now that the grass top is gone, I will be able to run the tiller over the surface to chop up most of the grass plants & roots. Happily, this area is free of the dreaded Bermuda grass. So the tiller will effectively kill what is there. Next, I'll let the sun dry out the uprooted grass plants, signing their death certificates. In the meantime I'll start hauling some compost over to this garden with the intent of rototilling it in a few days from now. But all this will have to wait for another day. You see, it started to rain. Farming is on hold. What to do next? Retreat to the house and some cleaning up until dinner time. Yuk. I'd rather be farming. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

More of the Garden Reclaimed

My weekends are usually non-productive farm days. Since hubby is still working a job, I let him dictate how we spend the weekends, and you can bet it won't be working in the farm. He's no country boy! So along came Monday, and I had a chance to tackle another farm project. I opted to reclaim another garden growing area in order to plant more taro that is waiting on the side lines for space. 

Doing the standard routine, 190 square feet was ready for planting before lunch. The taro had already been prepared, so it was just a matter of popping them into place and giving them a good drink. Out came the mower and within an hour I had plenty of grass clippings to mulch the entire area. Done. Time for lunch and a break to recuperate from the mornings activity.

Post-lunch I opted for some farm maintenance and house chores. A bit boring, but necessary. Filled the gas tanks on the ATVs, mower, generators. Did a couple loads of laundry and distributed  the water to the gardens around the house. Cleaned out the raingutters on the house and barn. Fixed the screen door. Spied a bunch of ready bananas and cut it down, plus cut up the pau tree. Hung the bunch up by the house for further ripening.......

Swept the leaves off the concrete walkways. Weedwacked the grass down around the house. Harvested mamaki leaves and got them into the dehydrator. And did a dozen more little jobs that just help keep things running around here. 

Day done. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

Spiders in the Rain

Last night, during the rain, Noodles needed a walk. Taking a flashlight with me, I came upon this beautiful spider web. 

I just thought it was cool. Made me smile and be glad I was living in the country. Around here, we don't kill spiders just because they exist. They serve a function, so I let them be. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Loose Livestock Damage

Farm livestock gets loose. It's a common thing that happens. A fence gets damaged by a storm, a tree branch, something else brings it down (such as a car, a neighbor's bull, a trespasser). A gate latch fails. A person misses latching the gate correctly. The livestock learns to open the gate latch. Things happen. Livestock gets loose. 

I've had my share of this happening for a variety of reasons. But I have the habit now of checking the perimeter fence line each morning, looking for weak points, for breaks. I double check the gates when I go through. But still.... It's not uncommon for a feral pig to come by and damage a fence. Or for a branch to fall in it. As long as the livestock stays on my own 20 acres, I don't consider it a disaster. But they surely can cause havoc within my 20 acres. 

Just last month the sheep broke out of the back pasture. The wire gate gave way, a victim of the acid rain. I hadn't noticed the bottom restraining wire getting weak, but those sheep guys did. It was closer to their eye level and they spotted it. I'm guessing that one of them was rubbing themselves in the gate post, relieving an annoying itch, when the bottom of the gate gave way. It was a glorious opportunity to confirm that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence! 

Mostly the flock ate the grass. They entered an area where they've been allow to graze before, but I normally erect protective barriers around things I don't want them to eat. A simple hotwire can protect bee hives, gardens, or fruit trees. Since they understand and respect a hotwire, I don't even need to have it hooked up to a fence charger for it to keep the sheep at bay. But alas, no barrier hotwires. Results........

Lilikoi vines defoliated within reach. Several small vines got chewed through, thus killed. 

Young citrus tree defoliated and pruned. Luckily it's starting to push new leaves. 

My red grapefruit tree, pruned at sheep level. 

Happily I discovered the breakout before things got worse. But in the past I've had the entire veggie garden eaten! Yikes. 

The latest breakout was a couple days ago. Calico, the goat, learned how to work the gate latch. Smart goat. Of course, every other goat followed her to freedom. No damage done, but the gate now sports a chain and clip to help keep it shut from inquisitive goat lips. 

The real danger comes when livestock leave the farm. If they get onto a roadway, they could cause an accident. Bad news. Thus I am very diligent about maintaining my perimeter fence. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Reasons Why My Soil Doesn't Get Wet

Last night it gently rained. 0.56" to be precise. That's a decent amount of rain for overnight and most areas of the farm benefited. But I've learned that I need to get down at soil level and check, especially in the veggie beds. 

It came as a surprise to me many years ago that my soil didn't equally accept rain water. Some growing areas soaked up the moist perfectly. Other areas tended to get too soggy, with the water pooling in areas. Yet other spots were bone dry even after a 5" downpour. Closely observing and playing detective, I figured out quite a bit about what I needed to do to have soil that soaked up the rain (or irrigation) and distributed it well. 

Soil too soggy -- Growing veggies over pahoehoe lava, or a concrete slab like I have up by the house, can be done. But the soil can easily become overly saturated. I needed to add coarse young compost, instead of my fine aged stuff. And I needed to provide drainage channels as needed so that pools didn't develop. Tilling into the soil 10% coarse chunky biochar also helped with drainage while tending to even out the moisture content. Not sure why it works, but it does. 

Soil bone dry -- What was baffling was the dry soil after a good rain. Much of my soil is based upon decades of degraded ohia tree debris, which seems to make for very hydrophobic soil. The rainwater drains via channels, leaving 99% of the ground dry. I found that to be incredible. I could pour on a gallon of water and it seemed to soak in normally. But when I took a trowel and scooped the soil, only the top 1/2" - 3/4" was wet. The rest was dry. The water just drained off into invisible channels and disappeared underground. I tried a variety of methods to deal with this problem. This is what works best for me -- compost. Lots and lots of compost. Plus mulch to keep the sun and wind from damaging the soil ecology. 

Today when I checked the garden areas that I have planted, I discovered that one of the taro beds was dry under the mulch. The mulch layer was only about 1/2" thick, so although it does interfere with the rain getting to the soil underneath, the mulch wasn't the primary problem. The problem was that this bed is a  relatively new growing spot, so it hasn't had much soil improvements yet. There's not much organic material in it to capture the rain and hold it. Plus the mulch wasn't thick enough to help retain what moisture it previously had. Since the bed is already planted, I can't rototill in more compost. But I could top dress with 2 inches of fine compost and lightly scratch it in between the plants.....water it off with fresh mulch. So that's what I'm doing this afternoon. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Hurricane Hector

I know that some of my mainland friends were curious about whether or not I was affected by Hector. As of 7:45 pm, the answer is basically "not". I was actually hoping to see South Point get a good dousing of rain, but that didn't happen. We actually saw zero raindrops at the farm, but I heard from people living further south that they got a brief drizzle. 

12:30 pm today.....

The only thing that lets me know that there's a hurricane due south of us is the wind. It's been no worse than a brisk tradewind but it's been blustery rather than steady. Right about lunchtime it started coming in by one direction and a couple hours later the direction shifted, as the storm passed. I haven't seen any damage from the wind. Even the new tarp of the hoop house is holding just fine. 

Another web view.

So here I sit at 8 pm. It's still blustery out there. Nothing special. I don't even hear the trees "talking", like they do when it's really windy. So our first hurricane of the season passed us by. 

Tuesday on the Farm

With homestead farming, each day will be a little different. It's not like a commercial farm where I need to adhere to a preset schedule in order to get certain crops in on particular days so that their harvest date is fairly established, or keep to a spraying or fertilizing schedule. Homestead farming is a bit more flexible, but knowing that I need the crops in order to support the farm, the drive to get things done is surely there. 

Every day starts with tending the livestock. That's a daily given. No deviation from that routine. Then it's off to do other things. 

First thing, I had some trading to do. Tuesday is a good day for that because I can take anything left over to the town farmers market on Wednesdays. I really don't have the refrigeration to store a large amount of veggies for several days. That's one thing I have to take into consideration as I'm growing more and more veggies for trading and selling. Packing the frig for overnight is one thing, storing for several days is another far different thing. So after first chores, I was off to meet a few "traders", plus pick up some young chickens needing to be relocated. Trading went well and I was back in time for lunch. 

I still had some pineapple plants that needed homes, so today I tucked them into several micro sized beds, giving a total square footage of 12. 

Next, I need to plant the taro starts that I prepared yesterday. As much as I hoped to get them planted today, I'm not sure I'll have time. So I put them all into buckets of water to hold them for another day it two. 

Now there was an urgent need to mulch all the new plantings. Out with the lawnmower and start mowing. 8 trashcanfuls later, I was ready to apply mulch. All the newly planted things got mulched, then watered in. The rest of the grass clippings went to tup up the previously mulched beds. 

The late afternoon I spent harvesting guava poles. It's slow work because I have to cut up the slash afterward and lay it down in one of the working hugelbeds. I don't like leaving the slash just laying there because it eventually makes it impossible to walk in the guava forest. So collecting poles goes slowly. It's not difficult work, just slow. On the next post, I'll show you what I'm using the poles for. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Monday on the Farm

After a weekend, Monday is always catch-up day. Today was no different. After the routine daily chores, I spent the morning preparing another garden bed for replanting. This one is 216 sq ft. 

The last crop was sweet potatoes, a crop I use to help condition new soil. It's a stepping stone. So after harvesting all the sweets (most went to livestock food), I added several wheelbarrowfuls of compost, plus a dusting of coral sand and lava sand. Then tilled everything in to the depth of 3 to 4 inches. In the process, the tiller kicked out a lot more rocks. Now to plant....

Pineapples. Yup. This garden bed is on Matt's property and he prefers crops that don't need a lot of attention. And since I had a lot of young pineapple plants that needed a home, it was a good match. So in went 40 white pineapples. 

Spent the rest of the morning cooking slop & glop, preparing taro starts for planting tomorrow, and cutting some guava poles for another project I'll tell you about later. 

Afternoon job priority was watering what I already have growing. The beans, peas, taro, mint, turmeric, sweet potatoes, pineapples, etc. Irrigation used 300 gallons of water to give each plant a suitable drink, some requiring more water than others. It took me an hour. 

The rest of the afternoon included working on the back pastures clearing brush and sowing grass seed. Finished up the afternoon by feeding the livestock, taking a much deserved shower, and thinking about what to have for dinner. A full day. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Volcano Eruption Update

Just a quickie..........things may be stopping. But we won't relax just yet. Yesterday the lava river crusted over. The lava erupting from fissure 8 is significantly reduced. And the earthquakes at the summit have plunged from 30 an hour on average to zero for the past 3 hours. Yes, zero. It's been months since we've seen zero earthquakes in a 3 hour stretch. 

Not one red dot on the earthquake map! Red dots indicate earthquakes within the past 2 hours. 

And captured from Facebook......

That black snaky lava channel has been a glowing red river up until now. 

Now we wait and see what happens next. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Cracking Open the Macnuts

The last post about macnuts left us with dehusked macnuts still in their shell. So what's the next step? Setting the nuts aside for 4-6 weeks to dry down in their shells. You see, when they're fresh, the nut meat tends to adhere to the shell lining. That makes it very difficult to get the nut out. But allowing the entire nut to dry down some pulls the nut meat away from the shell lining. I suppose the commercial places have huge drying units of some sort, but on a small scale like this farm, the simplest way is to lay out the nuts some place dry and airy. Currently I use a greenhouse floor. But before I had greenhouses, I laid out the nuts in a single layer in boxes or trays, then stashed them under the house for several weeks. It worked. 

Next step....I wash the nuts before cracking. No sense in adding unnecessary dirt. 

Now for the business of cracking those nuts. It's not as simple as it sounds. These nuts are tough, and being round, they have structural strength. So any old nutcracker isn't going to work. You need one that can handle a macnut. There are several types out there, but this one works really well even if it is only one nut at a time. 

Above, this is the cracker commonly seen in my area. It's easy to use. Durable. Gets the job done. The particular cracker was purchased on 2005 and has been extensively used ever since. It's never let me down. 

The jaws have little teeth that grasp the nut. The jaw on the right is moveable and driven by a cam attached to the handle. Move the handle from right to left, and the jaws close. 

Pretty simple. Pretty powerful. 

Add a nut. Close the jaws.........


If the nuts are dried down enough, and with a bit of practice, I can get a lot of whole macnuts. The less dry the nuts, the more pieces I seem to get, as opposed to whole nuts. 

Over the years I've done a lot of macnut cracking. I figure that for every hour of nut cracking, I end up with a pound of end product.....that is, the weight of nuts after they are dehydrated. You see, once the nuts are cracked, the nut meat is perishable. It needs to be either refrigerated, frozen, roasted, dehydrated, or used. I prefer to dehydrate them. Once dehydrated, I can either sell or trade them, or process them into cooking oil. 

Yes, strictly looking at the money side of this, I'm surely not getting rich processing macnuts. But it's just another small part of being self sufficient. We could eat the nuts ourselves (whole, in baking, as macnut butter, etc), trade or sell them in order to acquire some food that we don't produce ourselves, or process them into our own cooking oil. They also make nice gifts. 

Thursday, August 2, 2018

New Baby Goatlings

Happily Calico decided to kid on a nice, dry, sunny day. She snuck off to the furthest corner of her pasture, seeking a bit of privacy. There she kidded two beautiful goatlings, one boy, one girl. 

I didn't capture the births, but judging from the looks of the kids, I'd venture to guess that the girl was born first. 

Above is the boy. He was still pretty damp when I discovered him, and his ears were still floppy. But he is strong, up and toddling about, and nursed shortly after the photo was taken. 

The little girl is an aggressive nurser and a real glutton. Every opportunity, she was looking for Calico's udder. 

Both kids are strong. They appear healthy. 

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Dear Diary, 

The past few days have been marvelous. I'm ever so thankful for the better weather. It's not perfect, but beggars can't be choosers, they say. At least it's not raining during the day...much. And the tradewinds are blowing, making the sunshine and the warmth bearable to work in. I know that it's going to dry out everything and that I'll need to be watering by the weekend if we don't get rain, but right about now I'm happy to be a bit on the dry side. 

I've been taking advantage of every daylight minute to catch up on farm chores. Mowing and weedwacking. Rototillering. Gathering grass clippings and mulching the taro, pineapples, beans, and turmeric. Gathering up the wind blown tree branches and piling them up for future firewood. Harvesting weeds for the compost bins, and cleaning up the beds around the house. 

Of course, I wasn't thrilled with the distractions, but farm living doesn't always go smoothly. Adam's water supply sprung a leak which needed immediate attention. The wind tore a long rip in the Costco shed cover, meaning an emergency repair and a trip to buy a cover tarp. Some rats chewed a number of holes in the window screens, but heck, repairs will have to wait for another day. I'll simply close the windows at night to keep the hairy buggahs out of the house. The ATV had a flat tire yesterday morning. Luckily I still had one more tire plug, so the repair went quickly. 

After waiting weeks, no months, I happily announce that the tool shed got painted. Now I'm tackling the barn. I'll take some photos tomorrow. I promise. 

Livestock was feeling frisky in the neighborhood. The next door neighbor's goats were in my gardens the past three mornings. I finally tied the two marauders up on ropes, whereupon they disappeared overnight, not to be seen today at all. Guess the neighbor got the message. It wasn't too difficult to find the places along the fence that the goats tore it up, but it's a pain to have to stop everything the do fence repairs, especially when it isn't even one's own animals. 

My own livestock haven't been angels either. The tiniest piglet has found a spot in the fence where it could squeeze through. It had a blast racing about the front acreage, having grand fun. As soon as Adam tried to catch it, it made a beeline right to its breakout spot. Ah-ha. Gave its secret away! 

Today Calico, the goat, decided to have her babies. Two cute kids. I'll show you photos tomorrow. But of course, there went the early morning work. I just HAD to sit down and do some cute baby watching. 

So my dear Diary, I've been keeping real busy. I'm totally bushed by the end of the day. But I'm afraid the stop......because things very well could return to wet days.